Tonight’s Local By-Election Preview by Harry Hayfield

Tonight’s Local By-Election Preview by Harry Hayfield

Harper Green on Bolton (Lab Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Labour 40, Conservatives 15, Liberal Democrats 3, United Kingdom Independence Party 2 (Labour majority of 20)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Labour 744 (52%), Conservative 325 (23%), UKIP 252 (18%), Greens 60 (4%), Liberal Democrats 53 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Jeff Armstrong (UKIP), Rebekah Fairhurst (Lib Dem), Susan Haworth (Lab), Joseph Holt (Ind), James Tomkinson (Green), Robert Tyler (Con)

If a week is a long time in politics, then twenty five years must seem like a millennium and yet, however, in those 25 years places like Bolton haven’t changed that much. Back in 1990, Bolton was a Labour controlled council with 43 of the 60 members elected belonging to Labour and they had an overall majority of 26. However, that lack of change masks a great deal. The first big change came in 2003 when Labour lost overall control, and in 2006 all three main parties were pretty much neck and neck (Lab 22, Con 21, Lib Dem 17), but following that election the tide began to swing towards Labour as they gained control again in 2011, and in 2014 the furst UKIP councillors were elected. So no change on the surface over the last quarter of a century or so, but a lot of changes on the ground.

Towyn on Conwy (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2012): Independents 19, Conservatives 13, Plaid Cymru 12, Labour 10, Liberal Democrats 5
Result of ward at last election (2008): Conservatives 411 (59%), Independent 120 (17%), Green 101 (15%), British National Party 60 (9%)
Candidates duly nominated: Geoff Corry (Ind), Barry Griffiths (Ind), David Johnson (Ind), Laura Knightly (Con), Beverley Pickard-Jones (Lab), Michael Smith (Ind)

There are a number of councils across the UK where it is simply impossible to create an overall majority, most of these places are areas with large number of Independents and Conwy is one of these councils. It’s been around since 1995 (created when Colwyn and Aberconwy were merged) and ever since no one has been able to get a majority on the council. In 1995, Labour and the Liberal Democrats were tied on 18 councillors each (with the Lib Dems having a 3% popular vote lead), in 1999 Labour had the most councillors (18 again), in 2004 the Independents took the lead with 19 seats, then the Conservatives stormed into the lead with 22 seats in 2008, before the Independents reclaimed the lead with 19 again but everytime way, way less than the 31 needed for an overall majority. So no matter what happens in Towyn, nothing is going to happen to change the fact that Conwy will always be a hung council for the rest of it’s days even if it does merge, or is forced to merge, with Denbighshire (Con 30%, Ind 28%, Lab 23%, Plaid 11%, Lib Dem 7%, Green 0%, Others 1%)

Medworth on Fenland (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 34, Independents 4, Liberal Democrast 2 (Conservative majority of 28)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Conservative 364 (59%), Labour 194 (31%), Liberal Democrats 58 (9%)
Candidates duly nominated: Kathy Dougall (Lab), Andrew Hunt (UKIP), Erbie Murat (Ind), Josephine Radcliffe (Lib Dem), Steve Tierney (Con)

Ah, Fenland, that rural part of eastern Cambridgeshire that just screams rural idyll and Conservative councillors elected with majorities over Independents that would make even grown men cry at the state of local democracy. So what a good thing we have UKIP to keep people on their toes (and with entire justification as well). In the Euros in Fenland, UKIP not only won the local count area (with 47% of the vote) but thanks to a 23% increase in the UKIP vote managed to clock up a 14% swing from Con to UKIP so now that everyone expects UKIP to win all Conservative seats where there is a whopping Conservative majority on the council, for UKIP NOT to win this (or indeed any other seat where the same rules apply) will be seen as a case for reasoning that maybe the UKIP surge is not all it is cracked up to be.

Tudor on Kingston upon Thames (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Conservatives 28, Liberal Democrats 18, Labour 2 (Conservative majority of 8)
Result of ward at last election (2014) : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,617, 1,437, 1,378
Liberal Democrats 701, 698, 554
Green 629
Labour 561, 511, 455
United Kingdom Independence Party 445
Candidates duly nominated: Ryan Coley (Green), Marilyn Mason (Lib Dem), Maria Netley (Con), Chris Priest (Lab), Ben Roberts (UKIP)

For a council with such an imposing name (the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames) it is perhaps only fitting that the battle for the council has been a battle royal. In 1990, when my records begin, the council was hung (Con 25, Lib Dem 18, Lab 7), but in 1994 the Lib Dems gained control only for the Conservatives to bring it back to being hung in 1998, the Lib Dems gained it for the second time in three elections in 2002 but again in 2006, the Conservatives made a charge but this time it wasn’t enough and the Lib Dems held on with a majority of 2. Up went the Lib Dem majority in 2010 to 6 but (as sure as night follows day) along came the Conservatives in 2014 and managed to gain overall control for the first time in over 25 years. So who’s going to win this by-election? Well, don’t look at me I haven’t got a clue!

Helmshore on Rossendale (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Labour 24, Conservatives 10, Independents 2 (Labour majority of 12)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Conservatives 1,167 (58%), Labour 846 (42%)
Candidates duly nominated: Granville Barker (UKIP), Emma Harding (Lab), Tony Haworth (Con)

Rossendale (the core of the Rossendale and Darwen constituency, so often mentioned on election night as a key Conservative / Labour battleground constituency) is just as marginal as the constituency it creates. Hung in 2003, it was one of the many Conservative GAINS in 2004 and stayed that way until 2011 when Labour gained it and the result in 2011 proves that, so here’s a good question for the experts pondering the effect of UKIP on Conservative / Labour marginals. Can UKIP help Labour get an 8% swing to gain the seat, or are UKIP just as capable of gaining as many Labour votes as they gain Conservative votes?

Oakham South West (Con Defence) and Whissendine (Ind Defence) on Rutland
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 16, Independents 8, Liberal Democrats 2 (Conservative majority of 6)
Result of wards at last election (2011) : Emboldened denotes elected

Oakham South West
Conservatives 285, 277
Independents 279, 266
Liberal Democrats 178, 131
Non Party Independent 139

Whissendine: Independent 335 (58%), Conservative 247 (42%)

Candidates duly nominated:
Oakham South West: Ben Callaghan (Ind), Richard Clifton (Con), Richard Swift (Lib Dem)
Whissendine: Sam Asplin (Lib Dem), Jonny Baker (Con)

Rutland is the oldest, yet newest, council on the block. Given unitary authority status back in the 1990’s, it re-created England’s smallest county and since 2003 has been Conservative controlled (which explains why Alan Duncan has such a healthy majority in Rutland and Melton) and also explains why the Independents do so well on the council but as with most Indpendents it’s a very personal vote so will the Independent nominated in Oakham South West manage to hold on to the seat and with no Independent defending in Whissendine, where will their votes go? Conservative or Liberal Democrat?

Sheppey Central on Swale (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 32, Labour 13, Liberal Democrats 1, Independents 1 (Conservative majority of 17)
Result of ward at last election (2011) : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 911, 871, 838
Labour 664, 618, 557
United Kingdom Independence Party 326
Offical Monster Raving Loony Party 171
Candidates duly nominated: Tina Booth (Con), Alan Henley (Lab), David Jones (UKIP), Mad Mike Young (Loony)

West Thurrock and South Stifford on Thurrock (Lab Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Labour 24, Conservatives 22, Independents 3 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 1)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Labour 1,054 (47%), UKIP 760 (34%), Conservatives 340 (15%), Liberal Democrats 73 (3%)
Candidates duly nominated: Terry Brookes (Lab), Russell Cherry (UKIP), John Rowles (Con)

If local by-elections were treated like movie trailers, these two would have the following: “From Local Election Productions comes “THE BATTLE OF THE EAST”, where the upstarts of UKIP aim to knock both the Conservatives in Swale and Labour in Thurrock into a cocked hat” and with entirely good reason. Swale is next door to Medway (where a certain Mark Reckless will be defending his Conservative majority for UKIP at the end of November) and Thurrock is a seat that Labour are scared witless that UKIP could gain or enable the Conservatives to gain. Of all the by-elections tonight, these are the ones that will be poured over for the rest of the month

Westfield on City of York (Lib Dem defence from Labour defection)
Result of last election to council (2011): Labour 26, Conservatives 10, Liberal Democrats 8, Greens 2, Independent 1 (Labour majority of 5)
Result of last at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,767, 1,642, 1,540
Liberal Democrats 1,401, 1,397, 1,152
Conservative 561
Greens 343, 260, 253
Candidates duly nominated: Jason Brown (Con), Louise Corson (Lab), Sam Kelly (Eng Dems), Judith Morris (UKIP), Andrew Waller (Lib Dem), Alison Webb (Green)

But, Kent and Essex aren’t the only places where defections happen. The City of York seems on the face of it a normal northern city. Lib Dem controlled in 2003, Lib Dem loss to No Overall Control in 2007, Labour gain in 2011, but over the years since that Labour gain there have been just one or two grumblings from Labour and Cllr. James Alexander (Lab, Holgate) and leader of the council has seen his majority shrink so this by-election, ahead of the general election next year, will be very important indeed. Can Labour protect their majority or will the Lib Dems be able to fight back in an area that looked so promising just a few years ago?

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