Local By-Election Preview : September 26th 2013

Local By-Election Preview : September 26th 2013


Wombwell on Barnsley (Lab Defence)

Last Election (2012): Lab 52, Ind 6, Con 5 (Lab overall majority of 41)

Last Election Results in electoral cycle

2010: Lab 2,617 (58%), Con 764 (17%), British National Party 738 (16%), Barnsley Independents 419 (9%)
2011: Lab 1,887 (65%), Barnsley Independents 440 (15%), Con 323 (11%), British National Party 218 (8%)
2012: Lab 1,769 (73%), Barnsley Independents 329 (14%), English Democrats 192 (8%), Con 124 (5%)

Candidates duly nominated: Robert Frost (Lab), Kevin Riddiough (English Democrats), Neil Robinson (UKIP), Clive Watkinson (Con)

When you have a Labour vote that ranks in the high 70’s % then the question becomes not so much “Will Labour win?” as “Will the opposition split?” and in recent elections that is precisely what has happened. Labour’s vote has increased by 15% since the local elections in 2010 and in that same timescale the Conservative vote has fallen by 12% and been divided between the Barnsley Independents, British National Party and the English Democrats.

So with the Barnsley Independents not standing, but UKIP standing in their place will the electors of this ward who cannot bring themselves to vote Labour go for the mainstream option (Con), the non mainstream option (UKIP) or cast “a pox on all your houses” (English Democrats)

Highfield on Blackpool (Lab Defence)

Last Election (2011): Lab 27, Con 14, Lib Dem 1 (Lab overall majority of 12)

Last Election Result (2011):

Conservatives 868, 777
Labour 849, 701
Independent 345
Liberal Democrats 99

Candidates duly nominated: Stephen Flanigan (UKIP), Bill Greene (Lib Dem), Peter Hunter (Lab), Christ Maher (Ind), Rob Mottershead (Ind), Shereen Reedman (Green), Sue Ridyard (Con)

Blackpool, one of the great seaside towns of Britain, is a case study in how Labour came and went in their battleground seats. At the 2003 local elections Labour had an overall majority of 8 on the council (reflected in their wins of 1997 and 2001 of both Blackpool seats) and although Labour held both seats in 2005 (with fairly comfortable majorities) by 2007 there was a change in the bracing sea air that regularly batters the Tower.

And that sea change resulted in 12 Labour losses and 13 Conservative gains turning the council on it’s head and giving the Conservatives a majority of 10. So it must have come as quite a disappointment for the Conservatives when they only managed to gain Blackpool North at the last election (by 2,100 votes) and lost Blackpool South by some 1,900 votes, and then the sea air changed direction again as in 2011, Labour made 14 gains (12 from the Conservatives and 2 from the Liberal Democrats) and retake control and with polls suggesting that trend is continuing then who is to say that Highfield will elect a second Labour councillor.

Banbury, Ruscote on Cherwell (Lab Defence)

Last Election (2012): Con 41, Lab 6, Lib Dem 3 (Con overall majority of 32)

Last Election Results in electoral cycle
2010: Lab 1,525 (52%), Con 958 (33%), Lib Dem 463 (15%)
2011: Lab 1,058 (54%), Con 762 (39%), Lib Dem 125 (7%)
2012: Lab 898 (62%), Con 469 (32%), Lib Dem 92 (6%)

Candidates duly nominated: Mark Cherry (Lab), Christian Miller (UKIP), Pat Thompson (Con)

Cherwell is the council that covers the northern part of Oxfordshire and as such is about as Conservative an area you can possibly get. But that is not to say that it did not have any Labour in it at all, back in 2003 there were 12 Labour councillors but as the Conservative tide swept through the south so that number whittled away until in 2008 there were just two left (and had to cede the opposition status to the Liberal Democrats on four).

But since the election they have been coming back, winning two seats at every election since (which means that by 2023 the Conservatives will lose overall control and by 2033 Labour will control the council) but until then they will have to content themselves with the seats they have at the moment and wait until next May to win some more.

Coleford East (Lab Defence) and Redmarley (Con Defence) on Forest of Dean

Last Local Election (2011): Con 19, Lab 17, Ind 11, Lib Dem 1 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 6 of an overall majority)

Last Election (2011)
Coleford East
Labour 738, 574
Independent 525
Conservatives 496, 474, 405
Liberal Democrats 332

Candidates duly nominated: Keith Aburrow (Ind), Alan Grant (UKIP), Harry Ives (Con), Heather Lusty (Lib Dem) Tanya Palmer (Lab)

Redmarley: Con 587 (80%), Lab 147 (20%)

Candidates duly nominated: Andy Hewlett (Lab), Alec Tritton (UKIP), Clayton Williams (Con)

For decades the Forest of Dean has been a Conservative / Labour battleground of the highest regard. As Gloucestershire West it was a key target for Labour at the February 1974 general election and as the Forest of Dean it was a Labour target in 1997 and a Conservative target in 2005 and so everyone thought it would continue that way.

Until County Council Election day when UKIP came from almost nowhere to, not only win three seats on the county in the district council area (Blakeney and Bream, Drybrook and Lydbrook and Lydney) but also managed to “win” the district by polling 28% of the vote to Labour’s 24%, the Conservatives 24% and the Independents on 13%. And at the same time they also won the Bromsberrow and Dymock district by-election from the Conservatives with a lead of 9% serving notice that the Forest of Dean is no longer a two party battleground, it’s a three party battleground.

Way on Mid Devon (Con Defence)

Last Local Election (2011): Con 24, Ind 12, Lib Dem 6 (Con overall majority of 6)
Last Election (2011): Con 513 (74%), Lab 181 (26%)

Candidates duly nominated: Judi Binks (Lib Dem), Bob Edwards (UKIP), Cathryn Heal (Con), John Jordan (Ind)

Mid Devon has turned from a major party battleground into a more relaxed battleground. Back in 2003, you had all manner of parties on the council. You had the Independents with 21 seats and as such tied with the opposition (made up of 11 Conservatives, 8 Liberal Democrats, a Labour and a Green). Now clearly that situation could not survive and thanks to the local elections in 2007 a process of rationalisation was undertaken.

Out went Labour and the Greens and in came 17 Conservatives, 15 Independents and 10 Liberal Democrats and whilst the council was still hung with the Conservatives being short of an overall majority by 5 at least making a coalition was a lot easier than it had been in 2003. And clearly that coalition must have worked because in 2011 the Conservatives made seven gains (four from the Liberal Democrats and three from the Independents) and were able to take overall control of the council.

But, just as in the Forest of Dean, UKIP made their presence felt in the county elections polling some 2,800 votes across the district (compared to 3,300 for the Liberal Democrats) and coming second in three of the wards.

Mickelham, Westhumble and Pixham on Mole Valley (Lib Dem Defence)

Last Local Election (2011): Lib Dem 18, Con 17, Ind 6 (No Overall Control, Liberal Democrats short by 3 of an overall majority)

Last Election (2011): Lib Dem 483 (51%), Con 391 (42%), UKIP 65 (7%)

Candidates duly nominated: Adrian Daniels (UKIP), Roger Hurst (Lib Dem), Duncan Irvine (Con)

When you read a ward name like that, you are instantly transported to the rolling fields of Southern England. Where you can take an afternoon stroll and bump into any number of characters from the books written about the South of England. Politically however, those fields are a battleground. Back in 2003, the Conservatives (although short of an overall majority) had the most councillors with 19, the Liberal Democrats had 15 and with six Independents and a Labour it was clear there the firepower would be levelled at.

And as the Conservatives gained control in 2007 Labour were wiped out from the council chamber, and the Independents were halved. And yet out the rubble of three Conservative gains, the Liberal Democrats had also made a gain. Clearly the Liberal Democrats were not going to be counted out just yet and this was proven in 2011 when, in a local election that was described by experts as a Lib Dem disaster area, the Lib Dems made two net gains on the council and managed to knock the Conservatives out of control (who suffered five net losses). Is this a trend that will continue in this by-election? We shall have to wait to see.

Crockenhill and Well Hill on Sevenoaks (Lab Defence)

Last Local Election (2011): Con 47, Lab 4, Lib Dem 2, Ind 1 (Con overall majority of 40)

The poor electors of Crockenhill must wonder what they have done to anger the electoral gods. Last local elections in 2011, there was only one valid nomination (that of an Independent) and so that Independent was duly elected. Less than a year later, they were asked to vote in a by-election. “Okay” said the electors and voted in a Labour councillor who scored 304 votes (58%) and had a healthy 127 vote (24%) majority over the Conservative candidate who polled 177 votes (34%) with UKIP trailing in a distant third on just 40 votes (8%).

Having done their civic duty they thought that the next election would be the county council elections in May of this and then the Euros next year. But no, because here we are again, just over two years after the district council elections and the electors of Crockenhill are being asked to elect a new district councillor for the second time in 18 months. No doubt, turnout will be down on the March 2012 by-election and therefore, perhaps, the result will be known quite a bit before 11.00pm this evening

Candidates duly nominated: Allrik Birch (Con), Phillip Hobson (Lib Dem), Steve Lindsay (UKIP), Rachel Waterson (Lab)

St. James on Tendring (Con Defence)

Last Local Election (2011): Con 33, Tendring First 16, Lab 9, Lib Dem 2 (Con overall majority of 6)

Last Election (2011):

Conservatives 766, 718
Tendring First 276, 191
Labour 256, 207
Green 87
Liberal Democrats 79, 44

Candidates duly nominated: Dave Bolton (Lab), Amanda Peters (Lib Dem), Susan Shearing (UKIP), Mark Stephenson (Tendring First), Andy Wood (Con)

Tendring is one of the councils where a strong local independent grouping has managed to put pay to a party seeking outright control of that council. In 2003, the Conservatives had 25 councillors on the council and were by far the lagrest grouping on the council however thanks to a combination of 13 Liberal Democrats, 11 Labour, 4 Independents, 3 Ratepayers and four members of a community group based in Tendring the council was well and truly in a state of no overall control.

By the 2007 local elections, the various Independents and Ratepayers had merged with the community group and become known as Tendring First and managed to win 20 seats denying the Conservatives an overall majority again (despite the Labour and Liberal Democrats making twelve losses between them).

It wasn’t until 2011 that the Conservatives got their majority (thanks in part to the Liberal Democrats losing four seats) but with UKIP entering the fray anything could and can happen (especially as UKIP came within a whisker of winning Tendring in the 2004 European Elections and in 2009).

Storrington on West Sussex (Con Defence)

Last Local Election (2013): Con 46, UKIP 10, Lib Dem 8, Lab 6, Ind 1 (Con overall majority of 21)

Last Election (2013): Con 1,580 (48%), UKIP 1,252 (38%), Lib Dem 464 (14%)

Candidates duly nominated: Phillip Circus (Con), James Doyle (Green), Nick Hopkinson (Lib Dem), John Wallace (UKIP)

Storrington finds itself at the centre of a perfect storm where a couple of elements have come together to make this result very interesting. The first element is Mr. James Doyle, standing for the Greens. In 2005 the county ward of Worthing Pier was a Con / Lib Dem marginal (Con 40%, Lib Dem 34%) and in 2009 the Liberal Democrats gained the ward by 3% on a swing of 4.5% to the Lib Dems. However, following the formation of the Coalition, the county councillor for the ward found himself being less and less keen on the way the Liberal Democrats were going and in 2012 announced that he was defecting to the Green Party and would contest his ward as a Green candidate. That county councillor was Mr. Doyle.

In the end he lost (by 146 votes forcing the Liberal Democrats into fourth behind UKIP). The second element of this storm is the key buzzword of the moment, fracking. Mr. Doyle was nominated using a trick used last by the SNP in the Scottish Parliament by adding campaigning words after the party, in this case making it clear to all and sundry that a Green vote was a vote against fracking and whilst Balcombe is not in the same county ward as Storrington, the arrest and charging of Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton, Pavilion) at the site just 24 hours before the polls open will make this election (in the eyes of the Greens anyway) a referendum on “fracking” as will the votes of the Green candidate in Blackpool who is also standing with the same additional title.

Harry Hayfield

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