Epping, Hemnal on Epping Forest (Conservative Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Conservatives 37, Residents 12, Liberal Democrats 3, United Kingdom Independence Party 2, Independents 2, Greens 1, Labour 1 (Conservative majority of 16)
Result of last election in ward (2011): Conservative 951 (42%), Liberal Democrats 821 (36%), Labour 231 (10%), UKIP 185 (8%), Green 83 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Kim Adams (Lib Dem), Nigel Avey (Con), Andrew Smith (UKIP), Anna Widdup (Green)
By-elections held during the conference season can always been very tricky affairs. Who can forget that classic by-election moment in October 1990 when Lady Thatcher poked fun at the new Liberal Democrat logo comparing it to Monty Python’s “This is an ex parrot” only for said parrot to bite the Conservatives in the proverbials when the Lib Dems gained Eastbourne on a 20% swing and the same is true of local by-elections although whether Labour will have anything to cheer about after Ed Milliband’s speech on Tuesday remains to be seen.
In fact, as the UKIP conference starts in Doncaster tomorrow maybe it will be Nigel Farage who gives his leader’s speech and is able to announce not one but two new UKIP councillors to add to the fold. After all, Epping Forest should be prime UKIP territory. It’s in Essex, the seat being defended is a Con / Lib Dem battleground (and we all know what has happened to the Lib Dems against UKIP since 2013) and perhaps more importantly than that, they won the council area at the Euros by 9%
Lovelace on Guildford (Conservative Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 34, Liberal Democrats 12, Labour 2 (Conservative majority of 20)
Result of last election in ward (2011): Conservative 648 (71%), Labour 134 (15%), Liberal Democrats 131 (14%)
Candidates duly nominated: Colin Cross (Lib Dem), Den Paton (Con), David Sheppard (UKIP), Robin Woof (Lab)
And Guildford could produce the double as it also fits the prime UKIP requirements with the addition of a virtual one party state council and a one party state ward. However, there could be a slight complication to UKIP in Guildford and that is the fact that UKIP did NOT win the council area in the Euros.
There was a 6% swing to UKIP in Guildford, yes, but that was a full 3% below the South Eastern average (9% to UKIP) so does this mean that Guildford is immune to the charms of UKIP? Not entirely, but it does raise the prospect of UKIP having the potential if not to gain this ward, then certainly make it plausible for the Conservatives to lose the ward.
Frome North on Somerset (Lib Dem Defence)
Result of last election to council (2013): Conservatives 28, Liberal Democrats 19, Labour 3, United Kingdom Independence Party 3, Independents 2 (Conservative majority of 1)
Result of last election in ward (2013): Liberal Democrat 1,047 (37%), Conservative 1,002 (36%), UKIP 445 (16%), Labour 302 (11%)
Candidates duly nominated: Adrian Dobinson (Ind), Damon Hooton (Lib Dem), Linda Oliver (Con), Catherine Richardson (Lab), Les Spalding (Green)
Which makes Frome completely out there. Here is a ward where UKIP polled 16% of the vote in, across a county where in the Euros they topped the poll in four of the five districts (polling 34% of the vote) and yet they could not find a candidate to stand in the by-election? If Nigel Farage wants people to take UKIP as a serious political party, then this is something they need to address very quickly indeed.
With some polls putting UKIP support as high as 20% at Westminster, he needs to remember that you only get UKIP votes when there is a UKIP candidate. No UKIP candidate means no UKIP votes and as a result, this battleground could very easily stay with the Lib Dems or flip to the Conservatives.