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

Just one by-election this week:


NORTON

Bromsgrove council, Worcestershire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Pete Lammas at the age of 71. A journalist who spent a 50-year career in the newspaper industry, culminating in 21 years as chief reporter of the _Bromsgrove Advertiser_, Lammas had served on Bromsgrove council since 2011.

Last week’s polling day was a bit snowy; a reminder that the weather can be dubious at this time of year. If anywhere in the West Midlands is going to get snow, it’s the Lickey Hills, a surprisingly high range of low hills which separates Birmingham from Worcestershire. Lying in the Lickey Hills is Norton ward, based on the village of Lickey End, a commuter village just off the M42 motorway and the A38 Birmingham-Bromsgrove road which grew strongly during the 1990s; the ward also includes some housing of even newer vintage on the northern edge of Bromsgrove town. This is clearly a “small government” type of place: Lickey End became a civil parish of its own in 2001, but the parish council was abolished in 2010 following a long campaign.

The present Norton ward was created in 2015 as a cut-down version of the 2003-15 Norton ward, which included more of Bromsgrove town. The census statistics for the former Norton ward bear out the description as a commuter area with high rates of employment and owner-occupation, and the ward’s election results also fall in type: Norton is a safe Conservative ward. The closest the Tories came to losing the former ward this century was in 2007 when they were opposed only by outgoing Tory councillor Nick Psirides, who stood for re-election as an independent and nearly won. In 2015, the only previous result on the current boundaries, the Tories led Labour 60-30. The local county seat (Bromsgrove Central) was a three-way Tory/Labour/UKIP marginal at the last county elections in 2013, but that division includes more Labour-inclined areas in Bromsgrove town.

For this by-election the Tories and Labour have both selected former Bromsgrove councillors who lost their seats in 2015. Michael Webb, the defending Tory candidate and local party chairman, was Peter Lammas’ ward colleague from 2007 to 2015, serving on the council cabinet throughout that time, but lost re-election in 2015 in Barnt Green and Hopwood ward. His wife Shirley is already a Bromsgrove councillor (for Catshill South ward). The Labour candidate is Rory Shannon, who represented St Johns ward from 2011 and lost re-election in 2015 in Aston Fields ward; he sits on the West Midlands board of the Labour party and is associated with Unison. Completing the ballot paper are Michelle Baker for the Greens and Adrian Smart for UKIP. There’s no danger this week of an unexpected loss to a Lib Dem candidate on an unbelievable swing, because there is no Lib Dem candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Bromsgrove
Worcestershire county council division: Bromsgrove Central (almost all), Bromsgrove East (small part)

May 2015 result C 943 Lab 467 Grn 166