Hackney council; caused by the resignation of Labour mayor Jules Pipe who is joining Sadiq Khan’s administration in City Hall as deputy mayor for planning, regeneration and skills.  He had served as mayor of Hackney since the post was established in October 2002, and before then as a Hackney councillor from 1996.

Welcome to inner London for what, in terms of electorate, is comfortably the biggest by-election of 2016.  We’re in the London Borough of Hackney, one of the older administrative units in the UK (thanks to our obsession with local government reorganisation) dating from 1965 when the former Hackney, Shoreditch and Stoke Newington councils were merged.

In Hackney’s history Labour have usually been the largest party, and in the first borough elections in 1964 they won all 60 seats.  Unfortunately the next election was the notorious Wilson nadir of 1968, which saw the Tories win overall control of the council with a group of neophytes and paper candidates who then proceeded to do about as well as you’d expect from a group of neophytes and paper candidates.  Labour regained overall control in the 1971 election, but lost control in 1990 as the council entered a rather troubled period.

Labour regained their majority in 1994, but the party had descended into infighting and the council’s finances were in a poor position, with Hackney having borrowed heavily in the 1960s and 1970s to build tower blocks which subsequently became uninhabitable or were demolished.  The Labour majority disappeared in 1996 with two by-election losses to the Lib Dems in Wick and Dalston wards; the Wick by-election winner was Neil Hughes, who now sits on Eden district council in Cumbria but is probably better known as one of the 7 Up children.
The 1998 election returned a hung council, and then Hackney’s financial and political crisis came to a head.  By this time a breakaway Labour group had taken control, and the administration was in a mess: as well as the council’s debts, a failed social security outsourcing contract had cost the council £36 million, and £100,000 was lost with the collapse of Railtrack in which the council had invested part of its pension fund.  A damning OFSTED report in 1999 led to central government investigating the council’s finances and effectively taking control of its expenditure.  The political crisis eventually led to a coalition agreement between the moderate Labour group leader, Jules Pipe, and the Conservative group leader, Eric Ollerenshaw (who would later lead the Tory group on the London Assembly and serve one term as MP for Lancaster), in which Pipe and Ollerenshaw became joint leaders of the council.  By the 2002 elections they had managed to stabilise the borough’s finances (at the cost of forcing worse pay and conditions on the council’s staff which led to a small fortune being paid out in unfair dismissal claims).

Somehow from all this chaos normality returned to the borough very swiftly.  The 2002 elections returned a large, and this time unified, Labour majority which has not been seriously challenged since.  On the same day a referendum on the establishment of an elected mayor for the borough resulted in a 70% Yes vote, and in October 2002 Pipe rose from the council leadership to win the borough’s inaugural Mayoral election.  He has held the post ever since, and has been appointed CBE for his political service.

As this is only the fourth by-election to a UK elected mayor post it’s worth looking at the previous three to see if there are any straws in the wind:

(1) North Tyneside, June 2003: Tory mayor resigned after being arrested on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children (he was subsequently exonerated).  Tory hold with an increased majority.

(2) Bedford, October 2009: independent (“Better Bedford Party”) mayor died.  Lib Dem gain.

(3) Tower Hamlets, June 2015: independent (“Tower Hamlets First”) mayor was disqualified for electoral fraud.  Labour gain.

Although two of the three previous mayoral by-elections resulted in gains, and all three went to a run-off, neither of those events look likely to happen in a Hackney context.  Pipe was taken to a run-off in the 2002 and 2006 elections by the Tory candidate (Andrew Boff in both cases) but his majority in 2014 when he beat the Greens 60-18 in the first round suggests Labour should have little trouble holding this by-election.  In the simultaneous Hackney council election (illustrated below) Labour outpolled the Greens 56-21 in terms of votes; a poor Green vote distribution means that the Greens’ 21% of the vote turns into no seats at all on Hackney council, with Labour’s 50 councillors opposed by four Conservatives (whose vote is concentrated in Stamford Hill were there is a large Jewish community) and three Lib Dems.

If anything, Labour did better in the London Assembly elections in May: Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith across the borough 67-12, and in the London Members ballot Labour beat the Greens 59-15 – unlike most of the GLA election results quoted by this column, these figures include postal votes (for which ward breakdowns are not available).  The following month Hackney voted 78% Remain in the EU referendum.

As the references to run-offs indicate, this by-election will be held using the Supplementary Vote system in which voters should give a first and second preference.  A win in the first round requires 50% of the first-preference votes; if this is not achieved the top two candidates will go forward to the run-off and the votes for the other three candidates will be transferred to their second-preference candidate.

It should be noted that Hackney has a history of cockups in administering its mayoral elections: in 2010 the electoral address for the Tory candidate (Andrew Boff, again) was held up so long by legal argument over whether it was admissible that it missed the print deadline for the official candidate statements’ booklet; this time round a printing error (thought to be describing the Tory candidate as a “Conversative”) has led to all the postal ballot papers for this election having to be reprinted and the postal votes consequently went out four days late.  Hopefully this will not have any significant effect on the election.

There are some famous names in the roll-call of previous Hackney by-election candidates: as well as Ollerenshaw and Hughes already mentioned we can add the former Home Secretary Charles Clarke (Chatham ward, October 1980) and Pipe himself (South Defoe ward, November 1996), while the campaigning journalist Paul Foot finished third in Hackney’s first mayoral election as the Socialist Alliance candidate.  Hoping to follow in Pipe’s footsteps is Labour candidate Philip Glanville, a Hackney councillor since 2006 (for Hoxton West ward since 2014 and Hoxton ward before then) who was Pipe’s deputy mayor and so has already taken over the mayoral functions on an acting basis.  He is opposed by Green candidate Samir Jeraj, a journalist and officer for the Race Equality Foundation; Amy Gray for the Tories; Dave Raval for the Lib Dems; and Dawa Ma who is the other member of the One Love Party which finished last in May’s London mayoral election, both in this borough and across London.  An official booklet with publicity for all five candidates is available here from the Hackney council website.

Parliamentary constituencies: Hackney North and Stoke Newington; Hackney South and Shoreditch
Proposed parliamentary constituencies from 2020: Finsbury Park and Stoke Newington (part), Hackney Central, Hackney West and Bethnal Green (part)

May 2014 election Lab 40858 Grn 11849 C 7853 LD 3840 Putting Hackney First 3265
May 2010 election Lab 48363 LD 15818 C 12405 Grn 10100 Communist 2033 Christian 1084
May 2006 election Lab 20830 C 7454 LD 4882 Grn 4683 Ind 2907 Respect 2800 Communist 896; runoff Lab 24233 C 8785
Oct 2002 election Lab 13813 C 4502 Socialist Alliance 4187 LD 4185 Grn 3002 Hackney First 1543 Ind 1253 Ind 441; runoff Lab 16234 C 5629

May 2016 GLA elections (includes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 51502 C 9335 Grn 7868 LD 2236 Women’s Equality 2189 Respect 1093 UKIP 1067 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 699 Britain First 532 Zylinski 286 BNP 239 One Love 143
London Member: Lab 45941 Grn 11642 C 7537 Women’s Equality 4066 LD 2994 UKIP 1766 Respect 1145 Animal Welfare 682 Britain First 673 CPA 519 House Party 416 BNP 259
June 2016 referendum Remain 83398 Leave 22868


East Hertfordshire council; caused by the resignation of former Conservative councillor James Cartwright following a Twitter row in which he insulted three users who disagreed with him that prayers should be held before full council meetings; after being censured by the council and ordered to attend social media training, he left the Conservative party.  Cartwright had served since 2015, and resigned from the council as he has emigrated to Kenya.

From Hackney we travel north along what was once Ermine Street and is now the A10.  Puckeridge was established by the Romans as “Ad Fines” at the junction of Ermine Street with Stane Street.  The modern village’s economy was once based on coaching – it was on the main route between London and Cambridge – but today it functions as a dormitory settlement for Hertford, the Lea Valley towns and London.

East Hertfordshire returned a full slate of Tory district councillors in 2015, and Puckeridge ward is not seriously challenged by other parties.  In the 2015 election Cartwright beat Labour 68-20.  The Tories are similarly safe in the local Hertfordshire county division (Braughing).

The Tories will be hoping to put behind them the row over prayers at council meetings which has now cost them two East Hertfordshire councillors – the motion’s proposer resigned last year and the resulting by-election featured a spectacular cockup by the Tory agent which led to the Conservative candidate appearing on the ballot paper without a description.  She was nonetheless elected.  This time the Tories have correctly nominated Peter Boylan, a Braughing parish councillor and author.  Labour have reselected their regular candidate for the ward David Bell, who is campaigning for a bypass for Puckeridge.  Also on an unusually long ballot paper for the ward are Tabitha Evans for the Green Party, Sara Mihajlovic for the Lib Dems and Geoffrey Miles for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: North East Hertfordshire
Proposed parliamentary constituency from 2020: North East Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire county council division: Braughing

May 2015 result C 940 Lab 277 Grn 175
May 2011 result C 601 Lab 256
May 2007 result C 471 Lab 148
May 2003 result C 394 Lab 178


North East Derbyshire council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Wayne Lilleyman after an assault at Tupton Miners’ Welfare in which he bit an 18-year-old man on the nose; he received a police caution.  He had served since 2011.

We move to another settlement on a Roman road, in this case Ryknield Street.  Tupton ward covers two villages (Old Tupton and New Tupton) off the A61 Chesterfield-Alfreton road together with a small part of Wingerworth to the north.  The village is probably best known for Tupton Hall school, which educated Dennis Skinner (at a time when it was a grammar school), and as the home of John Lowe, three-time darts world champion and the first player to shoot a televised nine-dart finish.

Tupton is presently part of the North East Derbyshire constituency, which now looks marginal at parliamentary level because of the Sheffield and Chesterfield suburbs contained within it, but is historically a Labour mining seat; similar comments apply to the proposed Alfreton and Clay Cross seat, into which this ward will go if the proposed boundary changes go through.  This is one of the Labour areas: Labour were unopposed here in the 2003 election but one of the Labour councillors was re-elected in 2007 as an independent, bringing a running-mate with him.  Labour got the seats back in 2011 and in the 2015 election beat the Conservatives 67-33 in a straight fight.  The local county division (Clay Cross North) is also safe for Labour.

Even in the dubious circumstances of this by-election Labour should have little trouble holding this seat.  Their candidate is Cathy Goodyer, chairman of Tupton parish council.  The Tories have reselected Andrew Lovell who was their lead candidate last year.  Also standing are Alan Garfitt for UKIP, David Hancock for the Lib Dems and Ben Marshall for the British People’s Party – not the neo-Nazi party of that name (which dissolved in 2013) but a group of cranks which has taken the name over without considering the implications.

Parliamentary constituency: North East Derbyshire
Proposed parliamentary constituency from 2020: Alfreton and Clay Cross
Derbyshire county council division: Clay Cross North

May 2015 result Lab 1158/1025 C 567/461
May 2011 result Lab 754/699 Ind 286/281/236/234/206
May 2007 result Ind 600/587 Lab 448/438 C 215/193
May 2003 result 2 Lab unopposed


Shropshire council; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Charlotte Barnes for personal and family reasons.  She had served since winning a by-election in September 2011.

Anybody who knows the Marches knows that it specialises in market towns which are beautiful, tiny and remote.  One of these is Bishop’s Castle; generally pronounced by locals in a way that’s difficult to reconcile with the English alphabet, “the Castle”, despite its tiny population, was a full-blown borough before the 1974 local government reorganisation.  These days it anchors a ward including eleven other tiny parishes in the Onny and Kemp valleys, the largest of which is Lydbury North; within the boundary is part of that strange and beautiful upland plateau called the Long Mynd.

This combination of the bohemian Castle and remote agricultural villages is a classic area for old-school Liberalism (it borders Montgomeryshire which was a Liberal seat for many years until Lembit Öpik got his hands on it) and in 2009 narrowly returned old-school Liberal Peter Phillips who had represented the area for many years on the pre-reorganisation South Shropshire council.  Phillips resigned in 2011 and was replaced by Barnes who increased the Lib Dem majority; at the last poll here in 2013 the Lib Dems beat the Tories 62-31.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Jonny Keeley, a musician (with the local band Fight the Bear) and community campaigner who runs a website promoting local organisations.  The Tory candidate is Georgie Ellis, runner-up here in 2009, a former South Shropshire councillor for the area and Lydbury North parish councillor.  Also standing are Steve Hale for the Green Party and Judith Payne for Labour.  Some of the electors for this by-election will be thrilled to hear that their polling station is a pub – the Inn on the Green in Wentnor.

Parliamentary constituency: Ludlow
Proposed parliamentary constituency from 2020: Ludlow and Leominster

May 2013 result LD 907 C 449 Grn 107
Sept 2011 by-election LD 801 C 544 Lab 80 Grn 74
June 2009 result LD 754 C 641 Grn 186


Carlisle council, Cumbria; caused by the death of Labour councillor Gerald Caig at the age of 64.  A GMB union official originally from Cleator Moor in west Cumbria, Caig was first elected to Carlisle council in 2014; he was the father of Tony Caig, former Carlisle United goalkeeper and now goalkeeping coach with Hartlepool United.

From Bishop’s Castle we travel north to a historic castle.  Back in December 1745 Carlisle Castle was the scene of the last siege in England, in which the army of the Crown reduced the last garrison left in England by Bonnie Prince Charlie’s forces as they retreated north.  The castle itself was built in the eleventh century by William II and rebuilt in stone by his successor Henry I to guard the border city of Carlisle; although England and Scotland are now at peace the Army are still here with the Duke of Lancaster’s regiment being headquartered in the castle, and in 2009 your columnist was here under their auspices as part of the centenary celebrations for the Territorial Army (as it then was).

The ward named after Carlisle Castle falls into two separate parts.  To the west side of the castle and the River Caldew is the Willow Holme and Newtown areas around the Cumberland Infirmary.  To the east side of the castle is Carlisle’s historic city centre, all of which is within this ward except for Citadel railway station.  The northern boundary of the ward is the River Eden and much of the north of the ward is flood plain.  The ward includes some Cumbria University buildings.  Until 2013 it had the same boundaries as the Castle division of Cumbria county council, and county results up to 2013 are included in the table below.

Located within this ward is the “Cursing Stone”, placed in 2001 in a pedestrian subway near the Tullie House museum and inscribed with a 1,069-word curse placed on the border reivers in 1525 by Gavin Dunbar, archbishop of Glasgow.  Instead it appears to have cursed Carlisle itself: Cumberland’s farms were devastated by the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001; the city was hit by devastating floods in 2005 and 2015, the most recent of which flooded the McVitie’s factory and led to a national biscuit shortage; a series of crimes; hits to the local economy; even Carlisle United’s relegation from the football league in 2004 were all blamed on the Cursing Stone.  In 2005 the ward’s city and county councillor Jim Tootle proposed that the stone be removed or destroyed, but the city council voted to keep it.  Seven years later Tootle was dead at the age of 59, and two years after that the winner of the by-election to replace Tootle on Cumbria county council was dead at the age of 67.  In fact, this is Castle’s eighth by-election (either at city or county level) in the fifteen years since the Cursing Stone was installed, a very high councillor attrition rate.  Coincidence?

Your columnist’s other reader has been in touch pointing out that in recent weeks a preview along the lines of “this ward used to be Labour versus Lib Dem but now it’s Labour versus somebody else” has often been followed by a spectacular Lib Dem gain.  At the risk of tempting fate, that’s unlikely to happen here.  While the Lib Dems did win all but one of the elections in this ward from 1999 to 2010 (the exception being an April 2001 by-election), making this Carlisle’s only reliable Lib Dem ward at the time, Labour’s record from 2011 onwards is eight wins out of a possible eight and the Lib Dems are now in a poor fourth place.  In May Labour had 50% of the vote to 24% for the Conservatives and 14% for UKIP.  Although Labour did very badly in the last Carlisle by-election, held in Botcherby ward in January, that ward already had a successful independent slate competing with Labour and a large proportion of its electors had been flooded out only weeks before.

Defending for Labour is Anne Glendinning, a former city and county councillor for Botcherby ward who tried and failed to get her city council seat back there in May.  The Tory candidate is mother-of-four, health shop manager and WI member Melissa Andrews who in 2014 took part in a half-Ironman triathlon in California for a Channel 5 TV series – with her pink hair, piercings and tattoos, Andrews is probably not what you expected a Tory candidate to look like.  UKIP have reselected their candidate from May Robbie Reid-Sinclair, a founder of the Solway Aviation Museum who is active in the Carlisle branch of the British Legion.  Also standing are Alison Hobson for the Lib Dems (who gives an address in Brampton) and Deborah Brown for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Carlisle
Proposed parliamentary constituency from 2020: Carlisle
Cumbria county council division: Castle (almost all), Botcherby (small part), Currock (small part), Denton Holme (small part)

May 2016 result Lab 544 C 258 UKIP 150 LD 89 Grn 50
May 2015 result Lab 940 C 671 UKIP 343 Grn 193 LD 145 TUSC 43
Sept 2014 by-election Lab 364 C 212 UKIP 208 LD 121 Grn 42
May 2014 result Lab 435 UKIP 267 C 221 LD 127 Grn 87 TUSC 28
May 2012 result Lab 663 LD 229 C 165 Grn 110
March 2012 county council by-election Lab 407 LD 369 C 93 Grn 54 UKIP 22
May 2011 result Lab 549 LD 438 Grn 135 TUSC 90 BNP 84
May 2010 result LD 816 Lab 802 C 553 Grn 161
June 2009 county council result LD 424 Lab 297 C 241 Grn 144 BNP 129
March 2009 by-election LD 465 Lab 304 BNP 255 C 143 Grn 125
May 2008 result LD 562 Lab 299 C 206 Ind 202
May 2007 result LD 607 Lab 331 C 185
Feb 2007 county council by-election LD 653 Lab 222 C 117 Grn 29
May 2006 result LD 632 Lab 321 C 149 Ind 69
Nov 2005 by-election LD 538 Lab 370
May 2005 county council result LD 937 Lab 853 C 349
June 2004 result LD 917 Lab 541
May 2003 result LD 603 Lab 443
May 2002 result LD 549 Lab 373 C 195
June 2001 county council result LD 994 Lab 786 C 448
Apr 2001 by-election Lab 329 LD 294 C 258 Lib 67
May 2000 result LD 513 Lab 299 C 230
May 1999 result LD 695/669/657 Lab 362/341/340 C 224/218/215


Newcastle upon Tyne council, Tyne and Wear; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor David Stockdale, ostensibly due to work commitments although he was later investigated by the council and police over alleged financial irregularities; he has since been exonerated.  First elected in 2012 and re-elected for a second term only in May, he had served as the council’s cabinet minister for culture and communities.

For our final preview of the week, and final resignation of the week under what might be called “a cloud”, we’re in the west end of Newcastle upon Tyne.  Blakelaw is a mostly post-war development located within the A1 Western Bypass; it’s a council estate ward and suffers from all the usual problems of council estate wards.

Your columnist’s other reader has been in touch pointing out that in recent weeks a preview along the lines of “this ward used to be Labour versus Lib Dem but now it’s Labour versus somebody else” has often been followed by a Lib Dem gain.  At the risk of tempting fate, that’s only slightly less unlikely to happen here than it is in Carlisle this week.  Blakelaw was one of the wards taken over in the Noughties by the Lib Dems during the time they controlled Newcastle council.  The Lib Dem share of the vote peaked at 52% in 2006, but the coalition took the floor out of their vote here: Labour gained all three seats in the period 2010-2012, and UKIP took over second place in 2015.  This is now a safe Labour ward with the party having a 63-16 lead over UKIP in May.

Defending for Labour is Nora Casey, who came to Newcastle from her native Ireland in 2014 and fought the marginal North Heaton ward in May; this should be a safer berth for her.  UKIP have reselected Ritchie Lane who fought the ward in May.  Also standing are recent University of York graduate Ciaran Morrissey for the Lib Dems, regular Tory candidate James Langley and regular Green candidate Brendan Derham.

Parliamentary constituency: Newcastle upon Tyne Central
Proposed parliamentary constituency from 2020: Newcastle upon Tyne North West

May 2016 result Lab 1846 UKIP 470 LD 267 C 221 Grn 117
May 2015 result Lab 2549 UKIP 846 C 532 LD 428 Grn 244
May 2014 result Lab 1897 LD 485 C 308
May 2012 result Lab 1948 LD 615 C 199
May 2011 result Lab 1940 LD 1088 C 246
May 2010 result Lab 1814 LD 1588 C 456 BNP 430
May 2008 result LD 1396 Lab 855 C 295 BNP 270
May 2007 result LD 1511 Lab 1000 BNP 230 C 230
May 2006 result LD 1608 Lab 1219 C 239
June 2004 result LD 1504/1402/1358 Lab 1278/1074/1040 BNP 359 Ind 318 C 298/297/290