Local By-Election Preview including the big election in Tower Hamlets

Local By-Election Preview including the big election in Tower Hamlets

Wallington South on Sutton (Lib Dem defence)
Result of council at last election (2014): Liberal Democrats 45, Conservatives 9 (Liberal Democrat majority of 36)
Result of ward at last election (2014) : Emboldened denotes elected
Liberal Democrats: 1,593, 1,558, 1,221 (37%)
Conservatives: 825, 649, 571 (19%)
United Kingdom Independence Party: 694 (16%)
Keep Our St. Helier Hospital Party: 377 (9%)
Labour: 374, 358, 283 (9%)
Green Party: 301, 274 (7%)
English Democrats: 110 (3%)
Candidates duly nominated: Andy Beadle (UKIP), Steve Cook (Lib Dem), Sarah Gwynn (Lab), Duncan Mattey (Ind), Rosa Rajendran (Green), Jim Simms (Con)

Sutton was the only bright spot on what was a dreadful night for the Liberal Democrats in London but this wasn’t the first time that the borough had been a beacon for Liberalism. The first Liberal councillors were elected to the council in 1974 (as part of the Liberal surge that saw them decide the fate of the Conservative government) but by 1978 they were in danger of being wiped out again with only two of the six being re-elected. The launch of the Alliance in 1981 helped the Liberals to some remarkable results in the 1982 London elections (most notably in Richmond where they won 24 seats out of 52) but sadly Sutton wasn’t able to join in the party as they made only one net gain. But in 1986, the Alliance did it, winning 28 seats on the council which forced it into No Overall Control and being the largest party the Alliance could claim a breakthrough in being able to control not one, not even two, but three London boroughs (Richmond, Sutton and Tower Hamlets) which was cemented in 1990 as the party (now called the Liberal Democrats) held on to all of the boroughs. But they were not finished yet. In 1994, they added Kingston upon Thames and Harrow to that list, and after only a slight reversal in 1998 (losing Harrow to Labour and Kingston to the Conservatives) normal service was resumed in 2002 when Lambeth, Islington and Southwark had the Liberal Democrats as the largest party or controlling. But the real high point came in 2006 when the Liberal Democrats stated “We now control or help run almost a quarter of the councils in London” as Brent, Camden, Islington, Southwark, Richmond, Kingston and Sutton all had either the Liberal Democrats as the majority party or largest party on the council. Sadly it was downhill from thereon in. In 2010, only Kingston and Sutton were Liberal Democrat wins and in 2014 Kingston was lost to the Conservatives leaving Sutton as the only part of London to elected a Lib Dem majority council (with Tom Brake, the MP for Carshalton and Wallington, being now the only Lib Dem MP in London)

Stepney Green on Tower Hamlets (Tower Hamlets First defence)
Result of council at last election (2014): Labour 22, Tower Hamlets First 18, Conservatives 5 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 1)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Emboldened denotes elected
Tower Hamlets First: 2,023, 1,965 (43%)
Labour: 1,568, 954 (33%)
Green Party: 411 (9%)
United Kingdom Independence Party: 387 (8%)
Conservatives: 209, 166 (4%)
Liberal Democrats: 151 (3%)
Candidates duly nominated: Sabina Akhtar (Lab), Safiul Azam (Con), Kirsty Chestnutt (Green), Abu Talha Chowdhury (Ind), Will Dyer (Lib Dem), Afsar Khan (Ind), Jessie Macneil-Brown (Something New), Paul Shea (UKIP)

Tower Hamlets Mayoral By-Election (Tower Hamlets First defence)
Result of last election (2014): Tower Hamlets First 36,539 (43%), Labour 27,643 (33%), Conservative 7,173 (9%), UKIP 4,819 (6%), Green 4,699 (6%), Liberal Democrat 1,959 (2%), Trade Unionist and Socialist 871 (1%), Independents 531 (1%). As no candidate polled 50% of the vote plus one, second preference votes were counted. Tower Hamlets first gained 856 second preferences polling 37,395 votes (52.3%), Labour gained 6,500 second preferences polling 34,143 votes (47.7%). Tower Hamlets First HOLD with a majority of 3,252 (4.6%)
Candidates duly nominated: Elaine Bagshaw (Lib Dem), John Biggs (Lab), Andy Erlam (Red Flag), John Foster (Green), Peter Golds (Con), Vanessa Hudson (Animal Welfare), Hafiz Kadir (Ind), Rabina Khan (Ind), Nicholas McQueen (UKIP), Mohammed Rahman Nanu (Ind)

What can you say about Tower Hamlets that hasn’t been said already? Since 1990, the council has managed to appear in national headlines for one reason for another. In 1990, it was that rare success story for the Liberal Democrats, an inner London borough council under Liberal Democrat control. But things quickly fell apart as demonstrated in September 1993 when the BNP won the Millwall by-election electing their first ever councillor in London and from there on in it got worse as for the 1994 local elections the Liberal Democrats had splintered into a Liberal Democrat group and an Independent Liberal Democrat Focus Team group. Net result was that the Liberal Democrats lost 23 seats on the council and never really recovered. Then in 2004, a certain George Galloway crowed over his Respect party topping the poll in the Tower Hamlets council area in the European Elections and announced that he would stand for the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency at the next election. He won that by 853 votes and then launched into a tirade against the council and vowed that Respect could gain control of the council at the elections the following year. That didn’t come about (as they won 12 seats) but they did force Labour’s majority to collapse from 19 to just one. In 2010 however, fortunes were reversed. Labour’s majority on the council increased to 31, Respect and the Lib Dems were almost wiped out, George Galloway lost his seat (having decided that moving to Poplar and Canning Town was the better option, and losing there as well). And then things got really interesting, when Tower Hamlets agreed in a referendum to have a directly elected mayor (and following a major battle with Labour) Tower Hamlets First emerged as the victors forcing the council into a state of No Overall Control and winning the mayoral election by 5%. That was until an election court rules that the mayor had put undue influence on some voters by stating it was their duty to vote for him as they followed the same religion as him and he was thrown out of office (along with his agent who happened to be a councillor). Thus generating two by-elections for the price of one and no doubt, prompting the residents of Tower Hamlets to think “Is this mayor really worth the trouble?” and perhaps start looking to places like Stoke for inspiration about what to do next.

Harry Hayfield

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