“All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order”

There are seven local by-elections on 9th March 2017. In this column’s first visit to London since December we shall look at Labour defences within and without the Greater London boundary, while the Tories have wards to defend in Hertford, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Rutland. But we start in one of the big cities of the Midlands with a difficult-looking UKIP defence in a ward with very strange recent voting patterns. Read on…


DERWENT

Derby city council; caused by the death of UK Independence Party councillor Bill Wright. A resident of Derwent ward for 50 years, Wright had served since 2014; two months before his death on Christmas Eve it was reported that he had applied to defect to Labour, but then changed his mind.

To start the week we are in the city of Derby. Derwent ward is rather misnamed as it contains none of the river it is named after; instead it lies in the north-east of Derby, east of the Midland railway line and north-east of the Pentagon roundabout, a notoriously congested road junction next to the Derbyshire county cricket ground. Much of the ward is made up of inter-war council housing, and that history has fed through into the ward’s modern demographic; it’s a working-class area with high unemployment.

For most of the 21st century Derwent has been safe Labour, although the Tories got within seven points of Labour in 2003 (when the defending Labour candidate had an Asian name) and within ten points in 2008. During this time Bill Wright polled some good scores as an independent candidate – 13% in 2006 and 2007 (beating the Lib Dems), 14% in 2008. At the time Wright was a director of the Revive Centre, which had brought multiple health services in the area under one roof. The results in the early part of this decade demonstrated a radical right-wing vote in the ward, with the BNP polling 12% in 2010, 13% in 2011 (beating the Lib Dems) and 12% in 2012 (beating the Conservatives).

Since 2012 Derwent ward’s election results have gone haywire. In 2014 Bill Wright returned to the ballot paper as the UKIP candidate and won a close three-way marginal with just 32% of the vote, beating Labour by 37 votes and the Lib Dem candidate Richard Hudson by 217. Although the general election turnout in 2015 enabled Labour to hold, the 2016 election returned another three-way marginal result, with Labour losing their seat by just three votes – to Richard Hudson, now standing for the Conservatives; the Tories and Labour polled 33% each to 27% for UKIP.

With UKIP polling rather more poorly than they would have liked in recent by-elections in industrial areas north of the Trent (notably in Stoke Central two weeks ago), Labour in a similar pickle and the Conservatives having won the most recent contest here, this is a fascinatingly unpredictable seat in which all three of the above parties will feel they have a chance of winning. A Labour gain will give the party some breathing space on Derby city council, where they had a majority of one seat before Wright’s death (26 Labour councillors to 17 Conservatives, five Lib Dems and three UKIPpers).

Defending for UKIP is Tony Crawley, who contesting the neighbouring Chaddesden ward in 2016. The Labour candidate is Nadine Peatfield, founder of the Lots for Tots magazine for parents of children under the age of five. The Conservatives have selected Steve Willoughby, who works locally for Rolls-Royce, and the ballot paper is completed by Simon Ferrigno for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Derby North

May 2016 result C 814 Lab 811 UKIP 660 LD 155
May 2015 result Lab 2107 UKIP 1336 C 1165 LD 349
May 2014 result UKIP 884 Lab 847 LD 667 C 245 BNP 84
May 2012 result Lab 1314 LD 689 BNP 302 C 239
May 2011 result Lab 1632 C 657 BNP 370 LD 267
May 2010 result Lab 2164 C 1333 LD 968 BNP 633
May 2008 result Lab 919 C 708 LD 353 Ind 325
May 2007 result Lab 1170 C 598 Ind 299 LD 252
May 2006 result Lab 1179 C 677 Ind 312 LD 288
July 2005 by-election Lab 1193 C 462 LD 161 UKIP 60
June 2004 result Lab 1793 C 1131 LD 703
May 2003 result Lab 853 C 719 LD 233 Ind 179
May 2002 result Lab 1093/981/820 C 518/434/364 LD 300/290/222

Tony CRAWLEY, 607 Nottingham Road, Derby DE21 6RU [UKIP]
Simon FERRIGNO, 3 Perth Street, Derby DE21 4EL [Liberal Dmeocrats]
Nadine Dawn Louise PEATFIELD, Markeaton Hotel, Kedleston Road, Derby DE22 2TF [Labour Party]
Steve WILLOUGHBY, 23 Chapter Close, Oakwood, Derby DE21 2BG [The Conservative Party Candidate]


EXTON

Rutland council; caused by the resignation of the leader of Rutland council Terry King on health grounds; he suffered a stroke in December. He had served since 2003.

From Brexit we lose the initial B and consider Rexit. Rutland council’s website is proudly advertising celebrations on 1st April to mark the 20th anniversary of independence from Leicestershire, so it’s a propitious time to travel to the centre of England’s smallest county. The first of the week’s rural wards, Exton ward is a large and rather diffuse area. Exton itself is the largest village in the ward, a ward of country seats with the Earls of Gainsborough having their home at Exton Hall, which is still in the hands of the Noel family. Not that the grounds of Exton Hall are all green and pristine; the associated park lay on a large ironstone deposit which was extracted between the 1950s and 1970s by Sundew, at the time of its construction the world’s largest dragline excavator. To the south of the ward is most of Rutland Water, one of Europe’s largest artificial lakes and England’s largest reservoir by surface area. In the north-west of the ward is one of Terry King’s achievements as leader of the council: Oakham Enterprise Park, formerly HMP Ashwell which closed in 2011 after badly damaged in a 2009 riot, and before then a US Army base during the Second World War.

King had won four consecutive elections in Exton with large majorities. He was unopposed at his first election in 2003; at his last re-election in 2015 he had 53% of the vote to 19% for the Lib Dems and 15% for UKIP. The Tories have a large majority on Rutland council (19 seats, including this vacancy, to six independents and two Lib Dems).

Defending for the Conservatives is June Fox, a businesswoman who gives an address in Whitwell, one of the smaller villages in the ward. The Lib Dem candidate is Joanna Burrows, an Oakham resident who is described as a keen supporter of local charities. Completing the ballot paper is UKIP’s Claire Barks, who fought this ward in 2015.

Parliamentary constituency: Rutland and Melton

May 2015 result C 449 LD 162 UKIP 125 Ind 111
May 2011 result C 428 LD 166
May 2007 result C 353 UKIP 86
May 2003 result C unopposed

Claire Alison BARKS, 22 Main Street, Cottesmore, Oakham LE15 7DJ [UK Independence Party (UKIP)]
Joanna Mary BURROWS, 211 Brooke Road, Oakham LE15 6HQ [Liberal Democrats]
June FOX, Applegate House, Bull Brigg Lane, Whitwell, Oakham LE15 8BL [Conservative Party Candidate]


RED HORSE

Stratford-on-Avon council, Warwickshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Bart Dalla Mura. A former chief executive of the poultry firm Bernard Matthews, he had served since 2015.

Moving west from Rutland, we are on the Warwickshire/Oxfordshire border to pay tribute to one of the most significant days in English history – Sunday 23 October 1642, upon which day the Parliamentarian and Royalist armies met at Edgehill in the first pitched battle of the English Civil War. Before then the escarpment of Edgehill was home to a hill figure of a horse cut into the hill’s red clay, a figure which had disappeared by the start of the twentieth century but still gives its name to the valley below.

The present Red Horse ward was created in 2015 from ten parishes previously contained in two wards, Burton Dassett and Vale of the Red Horse. These are small parishes: Tysoe, covering three villages below Edge Hill, is the largest with 942 electors, while neighbouring Compton Wynyates has only 16 electors. The two predecessor wards had a commuter economic profile thanks to their proximity to Banbury, just over the county boundary, and were both safe Conservative; the only previous result on these boundaries in 2015 went to the same form with the Tories beating UKIP 62-15. The picture is a little more nuanced at Warwickshire county council level, with the ward split between two divisions one of which (Kineton) was close between the Conservatives and UKIP in 2013. However, this by-election won’t affect control of the district council where the Tories have a large majority (30 seats including this and another pending vacancy, to four Lib Dems, one Labour and an independent).

Defending for the Conservatives is John Feilding – that is not a misprint – who is chair of Radway parish council within the ward. The UKIP candidate is Edward Fila, a headhunter for the motor industry who is chairman of the party’s Stratford-on-Avon branch and fought that constituency and this ward in 2015; he lives within the ward in Oxhill. Also standing are Philip Vial for the Lib Dems and Pat Hotson for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Kenilworth and Southam (part: Compton Wynyates, Oxhill, Tysoe and Whatcote parishes), Stratford-on-Avon (part: Avon Dassett, Farnborough, Radway, Ratley and Upton, and Warmington parishes)
Warwickshire county council divsion: Kineton (part in Stratford-on-Avon constituency), Stour and the Vale (part in Kenilworth and Southam constituency)

May 2015 result C 1317 UKIP 320 Lab 273 LD 202

John Henry Christopher FEILDING, 21 The Green, Radway, Warwick CV35 0UG [The Conservative Party Candidate]
Edward Leslie FILA, Primrose Cottage, Back Lane, Oxhill, Warwick CV35 0QN [UK Independence Party (UKIP)]
Pat HOTSON, Sundial Cottage, Knightcote, Southam CV47 2SF [Green Party]
Philip Peter John VIAL, 2 Signal Road, Shipston-on-Stour CV36 4GF [Liberal Democrat]


HAILEY, MINSTER LOVELL AND LEAFIELD

West Oxfordshire council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Warwick Robinson at the age of 70. He was first elected in 2000 for Minster Lovell ward, transferring to this ward in 2002 following boundary changes, and served for eight years on the West Oxfordshire cabinet. In his working life he had travelled the world in the jeans industry before becoming a part-time second-hand-car salesman.

Moving over the county boundary into Oxfordshire, we come to another village-based ward covering five parishes just to the north of the town of Witney. Leafield, once the highest point of Oxfordshire until the Vale of White Horse was transferred into the county, was once home to a Post Office radio transmission station which has since served as a headquarters for several short-lived Formula 1 racing teams (Arrows, Super Aguri, most recently Caterham). Minster Lovell has an interesting connection with democracy: much of the village was developed in the 1840s by the Chartist movement, and that part is still known today as the Charterville Allotments. Minster Lovell and Hailey both lie on the lower reaches of the River Windrush, while much of the rural parts of the ward once lay within the royal forest of Wychwood.

Robinson died in September, so this by-election has taken an unusually long time to call. This may or not be connected to the fact that Hailey, Minster Lovell and Leafield ward suddenly became marginal in 2016 with a strong independent candidacy from Graham Knaggs, who cut the Tory majority to 38-33 (with 13% for the Lib Dems). Before that the ward had been very safe Conservative, and was uncontested in 2008. The Conservatives safely hold the local county division (Hanborough and Minster Lovell) and their overall control of the council is not at issue here: they have 41 seats including this vacancy to four Labour and four Lib Dems.

Defending for the Conservatives is Brendan Kay, an estate agent and former Army officer. Knaggs is not standing again. The Lib Dem candidate is Kieran Mullins, and the ballot paper is completed by the wonderfully-named Calvert McGibbon for Labour, Andrew Wright for the Greens and Jim Stanley for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Witney
Oxfordshire county council division: Hanborough and Minster Lovell

May 2016 result C 450 Ind 399 LD 151 Lab 123 Grn 71
May 2015 double vacancy C 1374/1220 Lab 391/343 LD 346/257 Grn 341
May 2012 result C 572 Lab 246 LD 124 Grn 120
May 2011 result C 1009 Lab 197 Grn 160 LD 149
May 2008 result C unopposed
May 2007 result C 809 LD 230
June 2004 result C 942 LD 306 Lab 131
May 2003 result C 714 LD 384
May 2002 result C 780/695 LD 415/282

Brendan John KAY, 8 Broadway Close, Witney OX28 5GG [The Conservative Party Candidate]
Calvert Charles Stuart MCGIBBON, 2 Hemplands, Hailey, Witney OX29 9UR [Labour Party]
Kieran Joseph MULLINS, Sunnybank, The Green, Leafield, Witney OX29 9NP [Liberal Democrats]
Jim STANLEY, 57 Walterbush Road, Chipping Norton OX7 5DP [UK Independence Party (UKIP)]
Andrew WRIGHT, Pheasant Cottage, 1 Langley, Witney OX29 9PE [Green Party]


HERTFORD CASTLE

East Hertfordshire council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Kevin Brush. He had served since 2015.

For our two by-elections this week in Hertfordshire we go straight to the heart of the county. We’re in Hertford itself, one of England’s more obscure county towns with a population of only 27,000. It is first known to history in AD 673 as the location for the first synod of English bishops, with the date of Easter being one of the items on the agenda; the modern town begins in Norman times with the building of Hertford Castle and the founding of Hertford Priory. The castle was a royal residence for many years until the end of the Tudor dynasty, and Parliament met there in 1563 to escape a plague outbreak in London. After the royal family ceased to use the castle it was granted to the Earls of Salisbury, and the Tudor gatehouse – the only part of it which remains today – was briefly used as the head office of the East India Company before becoming the offices of Hertford Corporation and their successors, Hertford town council. In the meantime the town prospered as a typical rural market town with good communications to London, thanks to the completion of the Lea Navigation in 1767 and the coming of the railway in 1843.

The ward named after Hertford Castle ward contains much of the town centre – which still retains its mediaeval layout and is thus chronically congested – together with a small rural hinterland to the south. Its modern economy is based on administration, with Hertfordshire county council and East Hertfordshire district council both being based in the ward, and commuting to London, with both of Hertford’s railway stations being located here. Not surprisingly the ward has a demographic to match: 43% of the workforce are educated to degree level and over 50% are in management-level occupations, with full-time employment being high.

Hertford Castle ward is Conservative at local level, but was not always safely so in the Noughties and the Tories did lose the ward to an independent candidate at a by-election in May 2013. The 2015 election restored the full Tory slate, the Tories polling 41% to 22% for the outgoing independent councillor and 20% for the Labour slate. The ward presently forms part of a safe Conservative county council division (St Andrew’s) and there are no implications for control of the council as the Tories presently hold all but one of the council seats (the one that got away being independent).

Defending for the Tories is Linda Radford, a retired pharmacist and mathematician who is in her second consecutive term as Mayor of Hertford and is the widow of former ward councillor Russell Radford. There is no independent candidate this time. The Labour candidate is Veronica Fraser, and the ballot paper is completed by Tony Tarrega for the Green Party, UKIP’s Mike Shaw and the Lib Dems’ Freya Waterhouse.

Parliamentary constituency: Hertford and Stortford
Hertfordshire county council division: St Andrew’s

May 2015 result C 2349/2325/2087 Ind 1243 Lab 1151/1139/992 Grn 1016
May 2013 by-election Ind 961 C 769
May 2011 result C 1326/1244/1231 Lab 894/775/739 Ind 830
May 2007 result C 819/785/752 Ind 617/554/537 Lab 432/378/363 Grn 352
May 2003 result C 911/850/804 Lab 701/604/551 LD 388

Veronica Elizabeth FRASER, 41 Bengeo Street, Hertford SG14 3ET [Labour Party]
Linda Elisabeth RADFORD, 81 Mandeville Road, Hertford SG13 8JJ [Conservative Party]
Mike SHAW, Fryars Farm House, High Wych, Sawbridgeworth CM21 0LB [UK Independence Party (UKIP)]
Tony TARREGA, 6 Fordwich Rise, Hertford SG14 2BE [Green Party]
Freya Jane WATERHOUSE, 23 Raynham Street, Hertford SG13 7DE [Liberal Democrats]


WALTHAM CROSS

Broxbourne council, Hertfordshire; caused by the death of Labour councillor Malcolm Aitken. He had served since 2002.

From Hertford East railway station we move a few stops down the Liverpool Street railway line to Waltham Cross, the very south-eastern corner of Hertfordshire, located on the west bank of the River Lea north of the M25 motorway, which passes along the ward’s southern boundary in a tunnel. Waltham Cross itself lies at the southern end of the ward; the eponymous cross is one of the three surviving Eleanor Crosses, and marks the last resting place before London of Queen Eleanor’s funeral procession from Lincoln to Westminster in 1290.

In modern times News International have opened a large printing works next to the motorway which prints copies of The Sun and The Times, while the marshes next to the Lea which cover the eastern part of the ward have been developed as the Lee Valley White Water Centre, which hosted the canoe slalom events at the 2012 London Olympics. (The spelling of the River Lea, or Lee, is like the river itself: a little bit fluid.) Waltham Cross and Theobalds Grove railway stations connect the ward to London and Stratford.

For many years Waltham Cross has been the only non-Tory ward in Broxbourne, a generally prosperous and strongly Conservative district. This is down to the ward’s demographics: it’s essentially a part of the Enfield urban area which happens to lie on the other side of the Greater London boundary, and like the grottier parts of Enfield has high levels of social housing and has been a focus for immigration from the new EU states. Boundary changes in 2012 confused the issue by adding much of the former Theobalds ward, which was more typical of Broxbourne as a whole.

In that context Labour have done well to hold off the Tories at every election since the new boundaries came in in 2012 in what is not a safe ward: the 2016 result (Labour beating the Tories 56-44) is rather atypical in that it was a straight fight, and previous contests with a longer ballot paper have produced smaller Labour majorities (see for example 2015, when Labour had 43% to 38% for the Tories and 19% for UKIP). Labour will also be looking for a good performance to put them back into contention for the Waltham Cross county division, which includes some strongly Tory areas not in this ward.

Both Labour and the Tories have selected black candidates for this by-election – not something you see often in a shire county. Defending for Labour is Christian Durugo, youth officer for the party’s Broxbourne branch whose Twitter describes him as a campaigner, husband and comic book fan. The Tories have reselected Patsy Spears who fought the ward in 2015 and 2016; she came to England from Trinidad in 1969 and had a 30-year career as a midwife. Also standing are Steve Coster for UKIP and Brendan Wyer for the Lib Dems.

Parliamentary constituency: Broxbourne
Hertfordshire county council division: Waltham Cross

May 2016 result Lab 1205 C 965
May 2015 result Lab 1813 C 1621 UKIP 795
May 2014 result Lab 863 C 644 UKIP 595 Ind 259
May 2012 result Lab 942/853/834 C 771/750/740

Steve COSTER, 415 Goffs Lane, Goffs Oak, Waltham Cross EN7 5HQ [UK Independence Party (UKIP)]
Christian Uzoma Chinedu DURUGO, 1 Waltham House, 37 Eleanor Cross Road, Waltham Cross EN8 7FA [Labour Party]
Patsy SPEARS, 58 York Road, Waltham Cross EN8 7HN [The Conservative Party Candidate]
Brendan Paul WYER, 1 Pauls Court, Pauls Lane, Hoddesdon EN11 8UJ [Liberal Democrats]


ROXBOURNE

Harrow council, North London; caused by the death of Labour councillor Bob Currie. He had served since 1998, and was Mayor of Harrow in 2001-02, also serving as portfolio holder for housing.

From Broxbourne we lose the initial B and travel to this week’s final stop in Roxbourne, for the first London local by-election of 2017. Roxbourne ward lies in South Harrow generally to the north of Eastcote Lane, with Kings Road, Alexandra Avenue and Rayners Lane being the main thoroughfares. The ward is almost entirely made up of 1930s housing built to coincide with the transfer of the District Railway’s Uxbridge branch to the Piccadilly line; the Piccadilly’s South Harrow station serves the ward, and the viaduct to the north of it over marshy ground was a major engineering feat when it was built in the late 1900s. Roxbourne has been caught up in London’s transformation into a world city, with “Asian” being the ward’s largest ethnic group (45.6%) and two-thirds of the residents being non-white: it makes the top 100 wards in England and Wales for population born outside the EU, with Sri Lanka and India being major contributors to that total, and it is in the top 20 wards in England and Wales for Hinduism (27.1%)

I am indebted to Colin Gray’s peerless Harrow Elections website for informing me that Roxbourne ward was first created in a 1949 rewarding of what was then Harrow urban district council – Harrow council gained borough status in 1954 and in 1964 was the only one of the 32 new London boroughs to be wholly based on one previous local government district. At its creation in 1949 Roxbourne ward was safe Conservative, but was gained by the Liberals at an aldermanic by-election in July 1961; a double-vacancy election in 1962 left the Liberals with all three seats in the ward. The formation of the new Harrow borough in 1964 led to an all-out election which cleared out the Liberals, the three seats splitting two for Labour and one for the Conservatives, and from then on Roxbourne was a key marginal: Tory in the 1968 Wilson crash, Labour in 1971, Tory in 1974. New boundaries in 1978 led to the election of two Tories and one Labour, but one of the Tory seats had such a small majority that the Election Court voided it (for procedural errors by the election staff) and Labour gained the resulting by-election.

The 1982 election was the last time Roxbourne voted Conservative (the aforementioned Colin Gray was on the Labour slate that year), but one of the Tory councillors was disqualified for non-attendance in 1985 and a close three-way by-election was won by the Liberals. The 1986 election returned two Liberals and one Labour, and the ward’s representation stayed that way until 1994 when the Lib Dems (as they now were) gained the Labour seat.

Labour gained Roxbourne ward in 1998, and it has been plain sailing for the party since then. At the most recent Harrow elections in 2014 Labour had 49% of the vote in Roxbourne to 22% for the Conservatives and 20% for an Independent Labour slate, a splinter group which briefly had minority control of Harrow council going into that election. In the London Assembly elections last year Sadiq Khan carried the ward’s ballot boxes 50-32 over the Tories’ Zac Goldsmith (whatever happened to him?) while the London Members ballot had a bigger Labour lead of 52-26 – it should be noted that these figures are for ballot box votes only as postal votes were not broken down to ward level. There are no implications for control of Harrow council where Labour have a small majority: they hold 34 seats including this and another vacancy to 26 Conservatives, two independents and a Lib Dem.

Defending for Labour is Maxine Henson, who is hoping to join her husband Graham as a ward councillor. The Tory candidate is Annabel Singh, a 26-year-old party staffer from Pinner fighting her first election campaign. The Independent Labour group, having crashed and burned in the 2014 election, have retired from the fray, so the ballot paper is completed by the Lib Dems’ Marshel Amutharasan and perennial maverick Harrow candidate Herbert Crossman, whose series of defections is difficult to follow and even more difficult to describe but appears to be in UKIP this week.

Parliamentary constituency: Harrow West

May 2014 result Lab 1921/1802/1689 C 862/743/640 Ind Lab 778/540/498 LD 353/278
May 2010 result Lab 2725/2662/2695 C 1437/1437/1419 LD 1012/901/799
May 2006 result Lab 1317/1290/1160 C 798/708/656 LD 578/519/514
May 2002 result Lab 1176/1128/1055 C 579/565/546

May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1490 C 957 Grn 110 UKIP 82 LD 80 Respect 66 Britain First 45 Women’s Equality 44 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 32 BNP 23 One Love 20 Zylinski 20
List: Lab 1567 C 785 UKIP 155 Grn 112 LD 101 Respect 66 Women’s Equality 65 Britain First 56 CPA 33 BNP 31 Animal Welfare 30 House Party 10

Marshel AMUTHARASAN, 78 High Worple, Harrow HA2 9SZ [Liberal Democrats]
Herbert Winford CROSSMAN, 457a Alexandra Avenue, Harrow HA2 9RY [UK Independence Party (UKIP)]
Maxine HENSON, 360 Eastcote Lane, Harrow HA2 9AJ [Labour Party]
Annabel Narinder Lauren SINGH, 63 Paines Lane, Pinner HA5 3BX [The Conservative Party Candidate]

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