Local By-Election Preview: August 7th 2014

Local By-Election Preview: August 7th 2014

Broadley Common, Epping Upland and Nazing on Epping Forest (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Conservatives 37, Residents 12, Liberal Democrats 3, Independents 2, United Kingdom Independence Party 2, Green 1, Labour 1 (Conservative majority of 16)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Conservatives 585 (84%), Greens 69 (10%), Liberal Democrats 43 (6%)
Candidates duly nominated: Robert Glozier (Con), William Hartington (Green), Ron McEvoy (UKIP), Arnold Verrall (Lib Dem)

Epping Forest, a rock solid Conservative seat at Westminster, has in recent years developed a bit of an independent streak in it’s local politics (or to be more accurate a tendency to support local residents). Back in 2003, the council was hung with the Conservatives short of an overall majority by seven seats with the Liberal Democrats on 16 seats, and Labour on nine seats as well as a rather small group of Residents who had six seats. However by 2010, as the Conservatives first gained and then increased their control of the council, the Residents (thanks in part to the Liberal Democrats seeing their support plummet) became the offical opposition on the council and although suffering a slight backwards move this year still have a healthy representation compared to the other opposition groups, however this year marked the real emergence of UKIP as an opposition force and seeing as this ward matches the perfect UKIP hunting ground (virtual one party state in a ward UKIP has not stood in before) it is possible that UKIP may start talking to these Residents about the possiblities of bolstering the UKIP group.

Warboys and Bury on Huntingdonshire (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Conservatives 35, United Kingdom Independence Party 7, Liberal Democrats 5, Independents 4, Labour 1 (Conservative majority of 18)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Conservatives 612 (46%), UKIP 346 (26%), Labour 195 (15%), Liberal Democrats 169 (13%)
Candidates duly nominated: Angie Curtis (Con), Mary Howell (Lab), Michael Tew (UKIP), Christine Wills (Lib Dem)

Like Epping Forest, Huntingdonshire seems to be following the same pattern. However, unlike Epping Forest with no Residents group on the council, UKIP’s gains in 2014 were even more spectactular, however in this by-election UKIP do not have it all their own way. For starters it is not a heartland and secondly, UKIP stood last time and as we have seen time and time again when UKIP stand for a second time in a ward, the novelty factor has worn off and their vote share slumps. Until that stops and UKIP, at the local level, are able to retain votes, they will be very hard pressed to hold seats or votes that they have won.

Wells on Malvern Hills (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 21, Liberal Democrats 11, Independents 4, Greens 2 (Conservative majority of 4)
Result of ward at last election (2011) : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 822, 784
Green 491, 386
Candidates duly nominated: Christopher Burrows (Lab), Louise Gibson (Ind), Simon Gill (Lib Dem), Chris O’Donnell (Con), Richard Spencer (UKIP)

The Malvern Hills are perhaps as closely linked to images of rural Britain as you can possibly get, after all it was in those hills that Elgar went on many a long walk and came up with his “Nimrod” and his “Enigma Variations” and yet the council’s electoral history makes you think you were living in Wales. Back in 2003, the council was hung with the Lib Dems and the Opposition groups tied on 19 councillors each almost certain to make a Lib Dem breakthrough in 2007 and become the first Liberal Democrat majority controlled council in the West Midlands for decades. Sadly for the Lib Dems that never happened as in 2007 they suffered 14 losses and the Conservatives (who picked up 16 gains) gained overall control with a majority of 20 and given what happened in 2011 across the UK you would expect the Conservatives to be on the verge of making Malvern Hills a one party state. In fact, the complete opposite happened as the Liberal Democrats made 6 gains (in an election where the Lib Dems everywhere else were being hammered), so in a ward that was a Conservative heartland with Labour, the Lib Dems, UKIP and an Independent all making a first attempt at standing compared with 2011 who knows what’s going to happen?

Valley on Stroud (Green Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 25, Labour 11, Greens 6, Liberal Democrats 6, Independents 3 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by one)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Green 417 (47%), Labour 279 (31%), Conservative 190 (21%)
Candidates duly nominated: Martin Baxendale (Green), Stephen Davies (Con), James Heslop (Lab), Stuart Love (UKIP), Lucy Roberts (TUSC)

Stroud, the parliamentary constituency, has always been a key battleground for the formation of the government. It was one of the Labour landslide seats in 1997, recording a 11% swing to Labour in that election, it became a Conservative target in 2005 and finally came into the Conservative column in 2010 but only by 2% making it a key target for Labour next May. However on the council front, it’s only really become a battleground since 2010 but always lurking there, with a presence at every election since 2003, have been the Greens. They may only have had 4 councillors in 2003, but those councillors have proved very hard to shift indeed. They made a net gain in 2004, again in 2006, again in 2008, another in 2010, and have only lost two of those seats since then. The question however is, following Molly Scott Cato’s election (an election I am not sure anyone was expecting when the Lib Dem vote in the South West collapsed to such a degree that the Greens came third in places like West Devon, Mendip and Teignbridge) will her personal vote transfer to the new Green candidate or will Labour take a seat that most people believe would be Labour in any other part of the country?

Castle on Worthing (Liberal Democrat defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Conservatives 27, Liberal Democrats 7, Green 1, United Kingdom Independence Party 1, Labour 1 (Conservative majority of 17)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Liberal Democrats 701 (40%), Conservatives 505 (29%), UKIP 270 (16%), Labour 262 (15%)
Candidates duly nominated: Jim Deen (Lab), Alex Harman (Con), Charles James (UKIP), Stefan Sykes (Green), Nicholas Wiltshire (Lib Dem)

For people like me with a theatrical bent, the town of Worthing conjures up only one thing and that is the scene in “The Importance of Being Ernest” when Mr. Worthing is being question as to the suitability of him marrying Gwendolyn, his intended, by the formidable Lady Bracknell and admits that his last name comes from the fact that he was found in “A HANDBAG!” by a charitable person who was heading to the town on the railways. So just like Basingstoke will forever mean “one word that teems with hidden meaning”, Worthing will always be connected to Lady Bracknell who I am sure would approve of the virtual one party state that the council has become and here, just as in Huntingdonshire, UKIP may have played their cards too soon (by standing in 2012) but that does not mean a surprise can be ruled out as demonstrated by Cllr. James Doyle. He was a member of the county council in 2009 having been elected as the Liberal Democrat member for Worthing Pier, but in 2012 announced that he was defecting to the Greens and although he didn’t retain his seat at that election he did retain his seat at the district level this year (as a Green), so could the Greens spring another surprise on the Lib Dems or will the Conservatives dominate (as they have done) this part of Worthing?

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