Harry Hayfield previews the contests
Village on Stockton on Tees (Ind Defence)
Last Local Elections (2011): Lab 27, Ind 13, Con 12, Lib Dem 4. No Overall Control (Labour short by 2)
Result at last election (2011): Ind 2,109 (54%) Lab 1,251 (32%) Con 438 (11%) Lib Dem 116 (3%)
With a name such as Village, it should come as no surprise to hear that this ward lies in Stockton South constituency (one of the few in the north of England to have been held by all three parties within recent electoral history). Stockton South first appeared on the electoral map back in 1983 (when the old constituency of Stockton was split into two). Stockton North was the heart of the old Stockton and as such elected a Labour MP (but only by 4%). Stockton South on the other hand was a right old ding dong and eventually announced it had elected an Alliance member (representing the SDP wing) in the form of Ian Wrigglesworth. However, that was at the high point of the Alliance and by the 1987 general election, the Alliance were on a downward trend, but that said Mr. Wrigglesworth put up a very good fight only losing by 774 votes to Tim Devlin of the Conservatives, but at the 1992 election (following the formal dissolution of the Alliance), the Liberal Democrat vote collapsed to just 15% and Mr. Devlin was re-elected by just under 3,500 with Stockton South and Langbaurgh being the only Conservative seats in Cleveland with Tynemouth and Hexham making up the sum total of Conservative seats in North East England. So it should come as no surprise at all when at the 1997 general election all of them (with the exception of Hexham which stayed Conservative by just 222 votes) were swept aside in the Labour landslide with saw the election of Dari Taylor as the MP and by the time of the 2010 general election, her majority may have halved but it was still a good 13% lead over the Conservatives. However, at the 2010 general election the Conservatives clocked up a very impressive 6.5% swing to them in the North East of England (compared to the 7% swing in the South East of England) and as a result gained Stockton South allowing the Conservatives to declare that they now were able to win in the heart of urban North East England. What is strange is at the same time the local Independents werenâ€™t doing all that badly in the council elections. In the 2003 local elections in Stockton Labour had a majority of 1 with only 8 local Independents, now Labour are short by 2 with 13 local Independents (with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats having been hit the most), so will the Thornaby Independents be able to score another strike for local democracy, we shall have to wait and see.
Wormholt and White City on Hammersmith and Fulham (Lab Defence)
Last Local Elections (2010): Con 31, Lab 15. Conservative majority of 16
Result at last election (2010): Lab 8,836 (61%) Con 3,409 (23%) Lib Dem 2,293 (16%)
White City is just as famous a part of London as the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye, and yet the reason for itâ€™s fame could be misplaced. People will probably say â€œOh yes, thatâ€™s where the One Show is broadcast from!â€ and whilst true, that is not itâ€™s biggest claim to fame. White Cityâ€™s biggest claim to fame is being the host venue of the Games of the IIIrd Modern Olympiad back in 1908. Yes, it may seem like only yesterday that London closed the books on the 2012 Olympics but over a century previously, White City saw the opening ceremony of the first British Olympics. And just as we saw last summer, there was drama all the way. Harry Porter (USA) won the high jump by an inch, Robert Kerr (CAN) won the Menâ€™s 200m in a virtual blanket finish and who can forget the tale of Dorando Pietri (ITA) who saw his gold medal in the marathon taken away after the Americans lodged a protest saying that he had â€œused external supportâ€ (according to some sources by none other than Sir Conan Doyle himself) but was presented with a trophy by Queen Alexandra the following day as a tribute to his courage. However, given the current political dimensions of the United Kingdom, I think it is safe to say that the Labour candidate will be doing a very good impression of Usain Bolt (JAM) as they streak away from the rest of the pack.
Berry Hill on Forest of Dean (Lab Defence)
Last Local Elections (2011): Con 19, Lab 17, Ind 11, Lib Dem 1. No Overall Control (Conservatives short by 6)
Result at last election (2011): Lab 273 (55%) Con 222 (45%)
The Forest of Dean is one of those parts of the world where you think nothing happens. A rural part of Gloucestershire where everyone knows everyone and the most exciting thing to happen is when a cow slips on an icy path (proving that you should never cry over spilt milk). Nothing, however, could be furtherÂ from the truth. The Forest of Dean council has been one of the most hotly contested councils in the whole of the country as control of the council invariably leads to winning the parliamentary constituency. In 2003 the Conservatives had 17 councillors to Labourâ€™s 16 councillors (with the Independents winning 11 and the Liberal Democrats 4), 2005 general election the Conservatives gained the constituency with a majority of just over 2,000. 2007 saw the Conservatives gain overall control (Con 30, Ind 8, Lab 8, Lib Dem 2) and in 2010 the Conservative majority increased by a factor of five. Then, just the following year in the local elections, the Conservatives lost 11 seats, with Labour gaining 9 seats and the Independents 3, taking a seat from the Lib Dems in the process) meaning that the Forest of Dean is once again at the heart of the electoral battleground. However, as we have seen in the past it only takes the introduction of a party who has not contested an election before or a strong Independent force and what seems a foregone conculsion becomes anything but.