Local By-Election Preview: September 5th 2013

Local By-Election Preview: September 5th 2013


Fenside on Boston (Eng Dem Defence)
Last Local Election (2011): Con 19, Others 10, Lab 3 (Con overall majority of 6)

Last Election in ward (Emboldened denotes elected)

English Democrats 231, 195

Boston Independents 182, 176

Labour 162, 159

Liberal Democrats 68, 51

Boston in Lincolnshire (part of the Boston and Skegness constituency) seems on the surface to be a perfectly normal Conservative heartland and back at the 2003 local elections it was (Con 12, Lab 11, Lib Dem 4) but something very strange has been happening in Boston and it all centres on one thing. A bypass around Boston itself. Now, in every day elections a bypass would be noted by the local community and generally either commented on in the local papers or in everyday conversation.

In Boston, an entire political party sprung up about the issue and in the 2007 local elections won a staggering 25 seats wiping out the Liberal Democrats and Labour, reducing the Conservatives to just five seats and polling over 50% of the popular vote. This was, of course, the same elections that saw the Independents gain control of West Somerset from the Conservatives.

In 2011, although the Conservatives gained control of the council there is still a defiant little block of “non mainstream” parties who are now benefiting from the general lack of trust of all the main stream parties (as demonstrated in this ward by the election of not one, but two English Democrat councillors).

Is this a trend that is likely to continue, or will the introduction of UKIP into Lincolnshire politics mean there are so many “non mainstream” parties that the main stream parties are able to sneak in on the inside?

Yewdale on Carlisle (Lab Defence)

Last Local Election (2012): Lab 27, Con 20, Lib Dem 2, Ind 2 (Lab overall majority of 3)

Ward Results in last current electoral cycle

2012: Lab 1,222 (59%), Con 730 (35%), Lib Dem 57 (3%), Green 55 (3%)

2011: Lab 1,254 (60%), Con 845 (40%)

2010: Lab 1,653 (49%), Con 1,353 (40%), TUSC 176 (5%), Green 173 (5%)

Carlisle was for many a year a Labour stronghold at Westminster (with every attempt made by the Conservatives to penetrate it doomed to failure). And yet Carlisle, the council, was a regular old battleground which Labour have only managed to break through into control at the last local elections. So why is this you may ask?

Well, the answer is that whilst the council and the constituency share the same name, they do not share the same boundaries. The Carlisle constituency is essentially landlocked by rock solid Conservative Penrith and the Border (with only a tiny connection to Labour Workington next door). Carlisle council on the other hand is a sprawling council that covers the top half of the eastern side of Cumbria (the rest being taken up by Eden council)

Loughborough, Ashby on Charnwood (Lab Defence)

Last Local Election (2011): Con 33, Lab 16, BNP 1, Lib Dem 1, Ind 1 (Con overall majority of 14)

Last Election in ward (Emboldened denotes elected)

Labour 834, 817

Conservative 506, 404

Charnwood (like most English districts and boroughs) was formed as a result of the 1974 local government reorganisations and was granted borough status the same month. Being in the heart of Leicestershire (although some people in Hinckley and Bosworth might disagree with that claim) the fox, an animal historically linked with the county, has been the borough’s symbol since it’s formation.

The district also contains the town of Quorn which has lent its name to the vegetable textured protein product. Being in the heart of England, it is an area that can be safe Conservative (as demonstrated by Charnwood constituency) or highly marginal (as demonstrated by Loughborough constituency). So therefore this ward has the potential to do anything (and perhaps everything).

Ravensthorpe on Daventry (Con Defence)

Last Local Election (2012): Con 29, Lab 6, Lib Dem 1 (Con overall majority of 22)

Last Election in ward:

2012: Con 420 (62%), Eng Dem 136 (20%), Lib Dem 124 (18%)

Daventry takes up the vast chuck of western Northamptonshire and is one of the so called “modern rotten boroughs” having elected a Conservative MP for the best part of 85 years, so it is no huge surprise to see that the Conservatives dominate the local council (and have done for a similar length of time), however just as Labour have problems in seeming one party states, the Conservatives are not immune from that problem either, so although UKIP have been falling in recent months since the locals, a strong vote here could be the start of a fore guard action ahead of the Euros next May.

Bardswell on St. Edmundsbury (Con Defence)
Last Local Election (2011): Con 38, Ind 4, Lab 3 (Con overall majority of 31)

Last Election in ward:

2011: Con 737 (77%), Con 223 (23%)

Just as Daventry is a virtual one party state in the East Midlands, so St. Edmundsbury is in the Eastern electoral region and it is also an area I know quite well through having a friend who lives in the heart of the district in Bury St. Edmunds itself. Like most rural parts of the world, there is one preoccupation “Who is the most likely person to listen to our community?” so it should come as no surprise to hear that all of the candidates are stressing their local credentials and as a result the issue of rural depravation has come to the fore.

Torrington on Torridge (Lib Dem Defence)

Last Local Election (2011): Con 18, Ind 10, Lib Dem 6, Green 1, Lab 1 (No Overall Control, Conservatives and Opposition tied)

Last Election in ward (Emboldened denotes elected)

Conservative 809

Independents 792, 480

Liberal Democrats 641, 209

Labour 312

United Kingdom Independence Party 208

Torridge (part of Devon) is a sort of natural home to the Liberal Democrats. In 1958, the Liberals gained the parliamentary constituency of Torrington from the Conservatives on a swing of 33% in a by-election, in 1996 Emma Nicholson (the MP for the Devon West and Torridge seat) defected to the Liberal Democrats as John Major’s majority crumbled into a minority government (allowing the Liberal Democrats to gain the seat at the 1997 general election)

Despite losing it in 2005 to the Conservatives, the swing to the Conservatives in the seat in the 2010 election was a third the county swing. Which rather suggests that like Ceredigion, the main battleground in a general election is for the hearts and minds of the Independents.

TSE: However the Lib Dems aren’t standing in this election (I’m not sure why, can anyone help?)

Hambleden Valley on Wycombe (Con Defence)

Last Local Election (2011): Con 42, Lib Dem 8, Lab 7, Rates 3 (Con overall majority of 24)

Last Election in ward:

2011: Con 820 (80%), Lib Dem 204 (20%)

Wycombe is yet another Conservative heartland but one that has a very interesting annual tradition. Every year when the new mayor of the borough is installed, they are publicly weighed. The reason for this strange action? When they leave office they are weighed again and if they are discovered to have “grown fat at the public expense” they have to pay a fine based on how much weight they have gained.

Whether or not any of the candidates in this by-election intend to apply that idea to the entire borough, I cannot say, but again a virtual one party state could cause hiccups for the Conservatives.

Wadebridge East on Cornwall (Ind Defence)

Last Local Election (2013): Ind 37, Lib Dem 36, Con 31, Lab 8, UKIP 6, Meb Ker 4, Green 1 (No Overall Control, Ind short by 26)

Last Election in ward:

2013: Ind 335 (25%), Lib Dem 331 (25%), UKIP 208 (16%), Lab 161 (12%), Con 150 (11%), Ind 146 (11%)

Ah, yes, Wadebridge East. A ward which would have gone unnoticed, if it had not been the sitting councillor in the 2009 – 2013 term making some exceptionally unguarded comments. He faced calls to stand down as a councillor before the local elections and didn’t and I am quite sure that if a second Independent and UKIP had not stood in that election, the Lib Dems would have gained the ward.

However they did and he was re-elected and then made the same statement again. Naturally enough that was the last straw and this time he has stood down, so will the Liberal Democrats gain the ward in an area where they managed to hold on to their previous quota of councillors (against a very strong challenge by both Mebyon Kernow and UKIP) or will the Independent seeking to replace him say “I am not that councillor, what he said was completely uncalled for and I disavow everything that he said!”

Middleton, Cheney on Northamptonshire (Con Defence)

Last Local Election (2013): Con 36, Lab 11, Lib Dem 6, UKIP 3, Ind 1 (Con overall majority of 15)

Last Election in ward:

2013: Con 1,165 (43%), UKIP 963 (35%), Lab 357 (13%), Lib Dem 239 (9%)

Northamptonshire was exceptionally disappointing for Labour in the local elections in May. Thanks to boundary changes the Conservative majority of 39 elected in 2009 had been reduced to 31 and therefore only needed 15 net losses to wipe out their majority and what happened? Eight Conservative losses, seven Labour gains, one Lib Dem net loss and three UKIP net gains.

And as seen in this ward it was UKIP who prevented a large number of those potential Labour gains but with UKIP now withering, will Labour be able to recover those UKIP votes or will they go to the Conservatives (as the national polls have been suggesting?)


Harry Hayfield

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