After a week’s holiday, Andrew’s Previews is back to life with four by-elections on 6th April to start your new tax year. With Article 50 triggered and UKIP’s mission apparently accomplished, polling suggests that the prospects for the Brexit party look gloomy ahead of May’s county council elections, in which a large number of Kipper councillors in England will be up for re-election. (UKIP have never elected a councillor in Scotland; they won two council seats in Wales in 2012, but one of those councillors has since died and the other has left the party.) The fact that the party has annoyed its only MP, Douglas Carswell, to such an extent that he has decided to go it alone does not bode well – the experience of the 2010 Ulster Unionists is not something UKIP will presumably wish to repeat. This week is a chance for the Kippers to try and turn things around as they defend two seats, one in Carswell’s constituency; also up this week are a Lib Dem defence in Bath and a Tory defence in West Yorkshire. Read on…


ST JAMES

Tendring council, Essex; caused by the death of councillor John Hughes at the age of 73. He was a long-serving councillor having first been elected for St James ward for the Conservatives in a by-election in July 1997; he lost his seat in 2003, standing for re-election as an independent, returned to the council in 2007 as a Conservative from Alton Park ward, lost his seat to Labour in 2011, returned to St James ward in 2015 as a UKIP candidate but at the time of his death was sitting in the council’s Coastal Independents group. Since 2016 he had been a cabinet member on Tendring council, with responsibility for corporate services.

The St James ward is the western end of the Clacton-on-Sea seafront, on what the Essex tourist board rather hopefully describe as the “Essex Sunshine Coast”. Maybe that was the experience of the trippers to Billy Butlin’s holiday camp, located in this ward until it closed down in 1983 and since redeveloped for housing. Clacton has an old history – archaeological work in the area has identified 400,000-year-old flint tools manufactured by Homo erectus hominids, evidence of what has become known to archaeologists as the Clactonian industry. The modern population of Clacton is also old: in St James ward 34% of the population is aged over 64 and 27% of the workforce are retired, and it says something that the last by-election in this ward, in September 2013, was caused by the death of a councillor at the age of 87. For those who are still young enough to work, the ward’s economic profile is working-class and low-paid.

Clacton’s election results over the last three years have dominated by the saga of Douglas Carswell and his short-lived UKIP membership. From nowhere in 2011 Carswell got 22 councillors elected under his colours to Tendring council in 2015, making UKIP the second-largest party one seat behind the Conservatives. Analysing large UKIP groups in local government has often brought to mind the old joke about the formation of a new nonconformist chapel – item one on the agenda: the split – but in Tendring’s case that joke actually happened thanks to an inspired move by the Tory group, who offered UKIP a coalition deal to run the council. True to form, Tendring UKIP immediately split over whether to accept it, with Hughes – who had served in Tory cabinets in the past – on the pro side and having to leave the party for his efforts. Several more defections and less than two years later, fewer than half of the 23 Tendring Kippers – including Carswell – elected in 2015 are still in the party. At the last count there were 13 UKIP councillors in Tendring to 27 Conservatives, 8 independents (plus this vacancy), 5 Labour, 3 Holland-on-Sea Residents Association, 1 English Democrat (who was elected as UKIP) and 1 Tendring First. Hughes’ former Coastal Independents group dissolved upon his death and the other Coastal Independents councillor is now in the Tory column.

So this is an early electoral test for the damaged Clacton UKIP machine as they enter a brave new Carswell-less world. In 2015 in St James ward they had 39% of the vote to 35% for the Conservatives – who held the other seat in the ward – and 16% for Labour. The Tories hold the local Clacton West county division, which extends outside the town to include the notorious shanty town of Jaywick, the most deprived part of England according to official statistics; and in next month’s county council elections the Conservatives will defend a 7-point lead there over UKIP.

Defending this interesting by-election for UKIP is Teresa O’Hara, who was the unsuccessful UKIP candidate in this ward in 2015. The Tories have also selected their unsuccessful candidate from 2015, Maurice Alexander. The Labour candidate is Wendy Brown, a consultant in HR and employment law. Completing the ballot paper are Rosemary Dodds for the Green Party and Sean Duffy for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Clacton
Essex county council division: Clacton West

May 2015 result UKIP 933/741 C 848/770 Lab 385 Ind 244
Sept 2013 by-election C 445 UKIP 196 Lab 135 Tendring First 82 LD 35
May 2011 result C 766/718 Tendring First 276/191 Lab 256/207 Grn 87 LD 79/44
May 2007 result C 727/671 Tendring First 280/250 Lab 195 LD 166
May 2003 result C 403/384 LD 387/253 Lab 249/214 Ind 215


ELMHURST

Aylsbury Vale council, Buckinghamshire; caused by the resignation of UK Independence Party councillor Andy Hetherington who has moved away from the area. He had served since 2015.

For our second UKIP defence of the week we are in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire’s county town. Elmhurst is the northern ward of Aylesbury, lying in between the A413 road to Buckingham and the A418 to Leighton Buzzard. Like in many towns, the housing gets newer the further out you go, with Victorian and Edwardian terraces near the centre turning into seventies and eighties estates around Elmhurst Road – part of Aylesbury’s ring road.

Boundary changes confuse the issue slightly as the present ward dates only from 2015, when the three-member Elmhurst and Watermead ward was split up with Watermead – a 1980s and 1990s estate to the north outside the Aylesbury parish boundary – removed to a rural ward of its own. In the 2011 census the former Elmhurst and Watermead ward returned unusually racially diverse figures for a ward in a shire county – 18% Asian, 3.7% mixed race, 14% Muslim – and had high levels of full-time employment (46% of the workforce), a very interesting mix. This produced a chaotic result in Elmhurst ward in the 2015 election, with the Lib Dem slate topping the poll on 26% and winning one seat, UKIP polling 23% and winning the other seat, Labour scoring 22% and the Conservatives fourth on 21%. The local county division, Aylesbury North, was a Lib Dem-UKIP marginal – if you can get your head around such a concept – in the 2013 county elections, and the Lib Dems are defending an eight-point lead in that division in May. There are no implications for control of Aylesbury Vale council, where the Conservatives have a large majority (42 seats plus one vacancy to 8 Lib Dems, 3 UKIP plus this vacancy, 2 Labour and 2 Independents).

With that four-way marginal result in 2015 very little can be confidently predicted about this by-election save that all four of those parties will go into this by-election feeling that they have a genuine chance of victory. The defending UKIP candidate is Phil Gomm, a DJ who gives an address nearly ten miles away in the village of Granborough; he is county councillor for Aylesbury East division, and fought Bedgrove ward (in his division) as an independent in the 2015 district elections after falling out with UKIP, but would appear to be back in the fold. The Lib Dem candidate is Susan Morgan, an Aylesbury town councillor for most of the ward. Labour have selected Gary Paxton, who stood here in 2015. Another returning candidate from 2015 is Ammer Raheel of the Conservatives, a shop assistant and director of a car hire company. Completing the ballot paper is Nigel Foster of the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Aylesbury
Buckinghamshire county council division: Aylesbury North

May 2015 result LD 729/652 UKIP 666/567 Lab 632/516 C 604/496 Grn 220/131


WALCOT

Bath and North East Somerset council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Lisa Brett, who is moving to the USA. She had served since 2011.

For our second by-election this week with Lib Dem interest we are in the city of Bath. Walcot ward lies in the north-east of the city along the River Avon and the A4 road towards London, between the city centre and the Lambridge area. This is a prosperous, educated middle-class ward in a prosperous, educated middle-class city: over half of the workforce have degrees and another 12% are full-time students at one of Bath’s two universities, and 44% of the workforce are in management-level jobs.

In urban areas this is a good Lib Dem demographic, and the Lib Dems held both wards in Walcot ward in every election from 2003 to 2011 – even to the extent of increasing their majority in the 2011 election, one year into Coalition. But in 2015 the Lib Dems lost the Bath parliamentary seat to the Conservatives and the downballot effects filtered through into a chaotic result in Walcot ward. Brett was easily re-elected with 37% of the vote and a 15-point lead, but couldn’t get her running-mate in: the second seat in the ward went to the Tories, who had run fourth in 2011, on 22% with majorities of 23 votes over the Greens (also 22%) and 27 votes over the second Lib Dem candidate. Labour trailed in fourth with 15%. The Conservatives have a majority on Bath and North East Somerset council (37 seats plus one vacancy, to 14 Lib Dems plus this vacancy, 6 Labour, 3 Independents, 2 “no politics, just Peasedown” – one of the more dubious political party names out there – and 1 Green).

The Lib Dem poll ratings might have recovered a little since 2015, but the loss of Brett’s considerable personal vote makes this a tougher defence than it might appear on paper. Their defending candidate, in the unaccustomed position for an S of top of the ballot paper, is Richard Samuel who has long experience in local government as chief executive of Thanet council for nine years (2002-11); he is presently a trustee of the local citizens’ advice bureau. The Tory candidate is Brian Webber, a long-serving former councillor for Abbey ward (covering the city centre) who lost his seat in 2015. The Greens have selected Tim Stoneman, who works with postgrads at Bath University students’ union. Completing the ballot paper is Amber Watson for Labour, a 22-year-old retail trainer and USDAW member.

Parliamentary constituency: Bath

May 2015 result LD 1323/768 C 795/695 Grn 772/765 Lab 516/492 Ind 132
May 2011 result LD 1144/914 Grn 755 Lab 599 C 459/383
May 2007 result LD 723/706 C 605/572 Grn 475 Lab 189/170
May 2003 result LD 556/546 C 488/457 Grn 206/152 Lab 198/189 Ind 143/50


HIPPERHOLME AND LIGHTCLIFFE

Calderdale council, West Yorkshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Graham Hall at the age of 63. A former fruit and veg salesman on Halifax market, Hall was first elected to Calderdale council in 1980 from Northowram and Shelf ward, representing that ward from 1980 to 1984, Rastrick ward from 1987 to 1991 and again from 1995 to 1999, and Hipperholme and Lightcliffe ward since 1999. Hall was the Conservative candidate for Bradford South in the two 1980s general elections and for Yorkshire West in the 1989 European elections, and was Mayor of Calderdale in 2000.

We finish this week in the attractive villages of West Yorkshire. Hipperholme and its twin village of Lightcliffe lie a few miles east of Halifax at the junction of the A58 Halifax-Leeds and the A644 Brighouse-Queensbury roads; the ward’s other main population centre is Bailiff Bridge at the junction of the A641 Brighouse-Bradford and A649 Hipperholme-Liversedge roads. Hipperholme grammar school has existed since at least the seventeenth century, and its former pupils include the great Victorian prime minister Sir Robert Peel and the present Nottinghamshire police and crime commissioner (and former Labour MP) Paddy Tipping, together with Danny and Richard McNamara of the rock band Embrace. Apart from Embrace, the ward’s major export is white goods from the Crosslee factory, who make White Knight tumble dryers in Hipperholme and export them to over 70 countries.

One of the ward’s main landmarks is this old railway viaduct which was half-demolished due to subsidence, and the Conservative vote in this ward isn’t always on solid ground either. The villages are very much commuter areas for the towns and cities of West Yorkshire (at least when the M62 is in a nice mood), but an independent candidate has held one of the three seats in this ward since 2006 and a second independent has come relatively close to election on a few occasions since. However, last year’s election wasn’t affected by independents and was a big Conservative win, 65-17 over Labour. Labour run Calderdale council, but do not have a majority – they have 23 seats to 20 for the Conservatives plus this vacancy, 5 Lib Dems and 2 independents.

Defending for the Conservatives is George Robinson of Lightcliffe, who came a disappointing second in Elland ward last year but should have an easier ride here. The Labour candidate is Oliver Willows, and the ballot paper is completed by Alisdair McGregor for the Lib Dems and Elaine Hey for the Greens.

Parliamentary constituency: Calder Valley

May 2016 result C 1998 Lab 526 LD 319 Grn 249
May 2015 result C 3878 Lab 1254 Grn 510 LD 473
May 2014 result Ind 1861 C 888 Lab 445 LD 106
May 2012 result C 1322 Ind 930 Lab 722 LD 106
May 2011 result C 1628 Ind 1256 Lab 710 LD 188
May 2010 result Ind 2213 C 1971 Lab 933 LD 860
May 2008 result C 2209 LD 578 Lab 438
May 2007 result C 1503 Ind 1073 Lab 496 LD 225
May 2006 result Ind 1277 C 1215 Lab 500 LD 233
June 2004 result C 1921/1726/1684 Ind 1489/1166 Lab 970/503/491 LD 343/308/300