There are eight by-elections on 24th November 2016. Nine were scheduled, but a by-election to St Edmundsbury council in Suffolk has returned a Conservative unopposed. Here are the other eight polls, with four Labour defences, one Liberal Democrat and three Conservative; we start with a couple of areas in the North of England which readers with short memories might notice have featured in this column very recently, and one of which may be cursed…


CASTLE

Carlisle council, Cumbria; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Barrie Osgood, who has been prosecuted for benefit fraud and sentenced to 180 hours of unpaid community work. He had served on Carlisle council since 2015; the fraud occurred before he became a councillor.

It’s worth saying a few things to start this week about the Cursing Stone, installed in 2001 in a pedestrian subway in Carlisle city centre and inscribed with a 1,069-word curse placed on border reivers in 1525 by Gavin Dunbar, archbishop of Glasgow. Now let’s look at what has happened to Carlisle since then. In the year the Stone was installed the farms of Cumberland were devastated by foot-and-mouth disease. The city has suffered a series of devastating floods, in 2005 and the Storm Desmond flood of 2015, which took out the McVitie’s factory and led to a national biscuit shortage which lasted for months. The Cursing Stone has taken the blame for a series of well-publicised crimes, hits to the local economy and even Carlisle United’s relegation from the football league in 2004.

After the 2005 flood Jim Tootle, city and county councillor for Castle ward which covers the Cursing Stone, proposed to the city council that it be removed or destroyed to prevent any further nasty things happening. The council voted to keep it. Seven years later Tootle was dead at the age of 59, and since then a series of other councillors for Castle ward have died at an early age or resigned. Since the Cursing Stone was installed, Carlisle’s Castle ward has had a horrific councillor attrition rate: this is the ninth by-election here (either at city or county level) in fifteen years, and the previous one was only ten weeks ago.

Coincidence?

As stated, Castle is Carlisle’s city centre ward, named after the Norman castle which was the scene of England’s last military siege, which took place over Christmas 1745 thanks to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s forces leaving a garrison here on their retreat back north. The army have not relinquished their hold on the castle – it is HQ Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment – and are still here waiting for any future invasion from over the Border. To the castle’s west side lie the Willow Holme and Newtown areas and the Cumberland Infirmary; to the north is flood plain leading down to the River Eden; and to the east is Carlisle city centre, all of which, apart from Citadel railway station, is within the ward, together with some Cumbria University buildings. Until 2013 the ward had the same boundaries as the Castle division of Cumbria county council and results for that division up to 2013 are included in the table below.

From 1999 to 2010 Castle was Carlisle’s only reliable Lib Dem ward, voting for the party on every occasion except for a by-election in April 2001. The Coalition put paid to the Lib Dem vote here and Labour are now on a 9-poll winning streak here since 2011; in May they had 50% of the vote to 24% for the Conservatives and 14% for UKIP, and the last by-election in September didn’t show much change from that (47% for Labour, 27% for the Tories and 13% for UKIP).

Defending a Carlisle by-election for the second time this year is Labour’s Stephen Sidgwick, who contested the flooded-out Botcherby ward in January and had a very poor result, losing the seat to an independent candidate on a big swing. He should have an easier ride here. The Tory candidate is John North, a poet. UKIP have selected Michael Story, and the ballot paper is completed by the Lib Dems’ David Wood and the Greens’ Neil Boothman.

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

Sept 2016 by-election Lab 398 C 228 UKIP 107 LD 88 Grn 34
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


BLAKELAW

Newcastle upon Tyne council, Tyne and Wear; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Ben Riley, who is taking up a teaching job in the Middle East. He had served since 2015.

Moving to Newcastle upon Tyne for another by-election in a ward which was at the polls just ten weeks ago. Lying in the west end of Newcastle, Blakelaw is a council estate ward with all the usual problems, mostly built after the Second World War and located within the A1 Western Bypass.

Similarly to Carlisle Castle, this is a ward where the Coalition has taken the floor out of the Lib Dem vote; Blakelaw was solidly Lib Dem during the years they controlled Newcastle council, but the Lib Dems lost all three seats to Labour in the period 2010-12, and even lost second place to UKIP before regaining it in September’s by-election. In May Labour beat UKIP 63-16; although the September by-election resulted in a large anti-Labour swing they still have a secure majority here, polling 42% to 27% for the Lib Dems and 18% for UKIP.

Defending for Labour is Oskar Avery, a member of Newcastle’s Jewish community who fought this ward in 2007; he stood in May in the hopeless West Gosforth ward but should have a better chance here this time. The Lib Dems have reselected their candidate from September Ciaran Morrissey, a postgraduate student at Newcastle University and policy officer for the Lib Dems’ youth wing. There is no UKIP candidate this time, so the ballot paper is completed by Gerry Langley for the Tories and John Gordon for the localist Newcastle upon Tyne Community First Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Newcastle upon Tyne Central

Sept 2016 by-election Lab 1004 LD 654 UKIP 443 C 190 Grn 105
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


REEDLEY

Pendle council, Lancashire; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Robert Allen. He had served since 2011.

For our third by-election this week we are in Reedley Hallows – not the location for the latest film in the Harry Potter universe, but one of the small Pendle towns which merge into each other seamlessly. Reedley is located immediately to the north of Burnley, sandwiched between Burnley and Brierfield, and Reedley ward contains a substantial part of Brierfield together with Nelson’s golf course. The ward is rather socially divided with the unusual combination of a large Asian population (mostly Pakistani) and high levels of owner-occupation; it just sneaks into the top 100 Muslim wards in England and Wales with a Muslim population of 34%.

This social mix produces an interesting ward. During the Blair and Brown years it was safe Tory with a very low Labour vote; but in 2011 Robert Allen polled more than four times as many votes as he had three years earlier to gain the seat for Labour after many years of failed attempts. Since then Reedley has developed into a hard-fought key marginal ward where majorities are often low; in 2014 Labour won by 37 votes to complete a full slate of councillors, but the Tory fightback started in May as they gained a seat back from Labour by 45-40, a majority of 134 votes. The voters of Reedley ward can’t be faulted for their commitment to democracy: the turnout here in May was 58%, impressively high for a local election. At county level this ward is presently part of the safe Tory Pendle West division, although boundary changes next year will transfer part of it to Pendle Central division. Pendle council is presently hung; the Tories are the largest party but the administration is a Labour-Lib Dem coalition with a secure majority.

This by-election pits two former councillors against each other. Defending in the red corner is Mohammad Hanif, who gained the ward from the Tories in 2012 but lost his seat in May; he is looking to make a quick return to the council. Challenging in the blue corner is Pauline McCormick, a former Mayor of Pendle (2002-03) who was first elected to the council in 1986 and served Reedley ward from 1992 until losing her seat in 2014. The Lib Dem candidate James Wood completes the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: Pendle
Lancashire county council division: Pendle West

May 2016 result C 1119 Lab 985 UKIP 186 LD 147 TUSC 30
May 2015 result Lab 1711 C 1348 TUSC 99
May 2014 result Lab 1170 C 1133 TUSC 64 LD 49
May 2012 result Lab 1034 C 917 LD 181
May 2011 result Lab 1218 C 1062
May 2010 result C 1492 Lab 839 LD 699
May 2008 result C 1250 Lab 285 LD 224
May 2007 result C 1222 Lab 380 LD 320
May 2006 double vacancy C 1120/1027 LD 554/375 Lab 322
June 2004 result C 1204 Lab 547 LD 442
May 2003 result C 913 Lab 544 LD 251
May 2002 result C 1255/1155/107 Lab 681/599/559 LD 258/215/198


WARSOP CARRS

Mansfield council, Nottinghamshire; caused by the death of Labour councillor Peter Crawford at the age of 71. He was first elected in 2007 for the former Birklands ward and transferred to this ward following boundary changes in 2011.

For the week’s Midlands by-election we are in the Nottinghamshire coalfield. Warsop Carrs is the north-western of the four wards covering the parish of Warsop, an old mining area on the A60 Mansfield-Worksop road: Carrs ward includes the western part of Market Warsop and the villages of Church Warsop and Warsop Vale. Warsop Vale was the location of a major colliery, Warsop Main; although the church in Church Warsop is Norman, the village is of very recent vintage, having been built in the 1930s by the Staveley Coal and Iron Company as accommodation for colliery workers. The coalmining legacy has left a very white British population with low qualification levels and high rates of long-term sickness. Unemployment rates are not particularly high, although this may partly be due to the largest local employer being the notorious Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook, just over the Derbyshire boundary, it’s no surprise to find that the ward’s economic profile is determinedly working-class.

Warsop is the part of Mansfield least affected by the district’s takeover by the pro-mayoral slate Mansfield Independent Forum; before 2011 the area was part of Meden ward which had a full slate of Labour councillors, and Warsop Carrs ward has followed suit since its creation. In the 2015 election Labour beat the Forum 73-27 in a straight fight.

Defending for Labour is Andrew Burgin. The Mansfield Independent Forum have not nominated a candidate this time, but there is an independent candidate on the ballot paper, Debra Barlow who received a double lung transplant last year and now campaigns for organ donation. Also standing are Raymond Forster for UKIP and Daniel Redfern for the Conservatives.

Parliamentary constituency: Mansfield
Nottinghamshire county council division: Warsop

May 2015 result Lab 1069 Mansfield Ind Forum 391
May 2011 result Lab 608 Mansfield Ind Forum 152 LD 57


VALLEY

Tandridge council, Surrey; caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Jill Caudle, who is moving away from the area to be closer to her family. She had served since 2000.

Tandridge council has had a rash of by-elections recently – this is the third poll in the district since July. The Valley referred to here is Caterham Valley, a dry valley in the North Downs. Caterham boomed in Victorian times as a result of the railway arriving in 1859; the present Valley ward runs from the railway station northwards along the valley to the Croydon Road Roundabout, at which the A22 Caterham Bypass ends. The ward has a commuter demographic with high full-time employment levels.

Despite this, Valley ward is far from being a lock for the Conservatives. The ward’s boundaries are unchanged since 1976, so we can trace its election results over an unusually long time. During the Thatcher years Valley was a close Tory versus Labour battle, but Labour only won it twice, in 1984 (by one vote) and 1988 – both years when there was no Alliance candidate. The collapse of the Tory vote during the latter Major years turned the ward into a Labour-inclined three-way marginal, the Lib Dems’ Jill Caudle finally breaking through in 2000 when both seats were up. Caudle quickly developed a personal vote which led to some yo-yoing in the ward’s election results through the Noughties. The remaining Labour councillor was re-elected in 2004 but after that their vote in the ward collapsed and it was a very easy Tory gain in 2008. The Tories, however, lost their seat in May to the Lib Dems who now held both seats in the ward for the first time: shares of the vote were 39% for the Lib Dems, 24% for the Conservatives, 15% for UKIP and 13% for Labour. The Tories are in better shape at county level, in which this ward is part of the safe Conservative Caterham Valley division.

Defending for the Lib Dems is Dorinda Cooper, described as a young and energetic community campaigner. The Conservatives have selected Paul Shipway. Regular UKIP candidate Jeffrey Bolter returns to the fray: a former Metropolitan Police officer and Police Federation rep, he fought Wells in the 2015 general election and Croydon South in 2010. Completing the ballot paper is Labour’s Mark Wood.

Parliamentary constituency: East Surrey
Surrey county council division: Caterham Valley

May 2016 result LD 428 C 265 UKIP 163 Lab 143 Ind 107
May 2015 result LD 725 C 701 UKIP 358 Lab 289
May 2012 result C 399 LD 294 UKIP 131 Lab 93 Grn 82
May 2011 result LD 528 C 469 UKIP 174 Lab 160
May 2008 result C 415 Ind 315 LD 222 UKIP 111 Lab 45
May 2007 result LD 581 C 309 UKIP 89 Lab 69
June 2004 result Lab 413 LD 383 C 340 UKIP 133
May 2003 result LD 554 C 269 Lab 231
May 2000 result Lab 436/364 LD 402/369 C 352/347
May 1999 result Lab 515 LD 464 C 404
May 1996 result Lab 486 LD 466 C 379
May 1995 result Lab 641 LD 554 C 317
May 1992 result C 520 LD 474 Lab 449
May 1991 result C 587 Lab 487 LD 424
May 1988 result Lab 749 C 580
May 1987 result C 701 Lab 427 All 321
May 1984 result Lab 628 C 627
May 1983 result C 694 Lab 470 All 272
May 1980 result C 631 Lab 512 Lib 199
May 1979 result C 1399 Lab 764
May 1976 result C 807/746 Lab 396/346


TADLEY SOUTH

Basingstoke and Deane council, Hampshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Rob Musson at the age of 63. A successful businessman and well-respected community figure, he had served since 2007.

Located just south of the Hampshire/Berkshire boundary, Tadley is one of those villages that has grown into the size of a town without anybody particularly noticing. The spur for this was the development after the Second World War of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston, just over the county boundary in Berkshire, and Tadley boomed in the 1950s and 1960s to provide accommodation for the AWRE’s workers and their families. Facilities have been slower to arrive and transport links to the nearest large towns – Basingstoke, Reading and Newbury – are relatively poor.

Tadley South is a safe Conservative ward with few points of interest – in May the Tories beat the Lib Dems here 63-21. However, the Tories did lose the local county council seat (Tadley and Baughurst) to the Lib Dems in the 2013 and will be looking for a good performance here to set down a marker ahead of next May’s county council elections.

Defending for the Conservatives is Kerri Carruthers. The Lib Dem candidate is Jo Slimin; she is a former Basingstoke and Deane councillor (Tadley North ward, 2002-3) and has served on Tadley town council since 1983. Completing the ballot paper are Claire Ballard for Labour and Phil Heath for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: North West Hampshire
Hampshire county council division: Tadley and Baughurst

May 2016 result C 824 LD 268 Lab 215
May 2015 result C 1787 LD 674 Lab 454
May 2012 result C 685 LD 231 Lab 195
May 2011 result C 1084 Lab 306 LD 300 UKIP 141
May 2008 result C 1048/928 LD 371 Lab 167


SOVEREIGN

Eastbourne council, East Sussex; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Ray Blakebrough due to work commitments. He had served since 2015.

Having started in Carlisle and gradually worked our way south, we have finally reached the south coast. Sovereign is Eastbourne’s easternmost ward but is probably not what you expected Eastbourne to be. The ward is based on a very new and very large marina development around Sovereign Harbour, which claims to be the largest composite marina complex in northern Europe; much of the ward’s housing has been built since 2000 and its population is still growing strongly. Despite this, Sovereign ward does share some of the typical economic indicators of Eastbourne including a relatively old age profile and high levels of private renting.

While at local level Eastbourne is a Tory versus Lib Dem battle Sovereign is one of the Tory-inclined wards (the Lib Dems have won it only once, in 2007) and its growing population is trending it more towards the Conservatives over time. In 2015 the Tory slate here won with 41% to 25% for the Lib Dems and 21% for UKIP. The ward has the same boundaries as the Sovereign division of East Sussex county council, which in 2013 the Tories narrowly held with 39%, to 34% for UKIP and 19% for the Lib Dems. There are no implications for control of the borough council, which despite the loss of the parliamentary seat in 2015 has a large Lib Dem majority.

Defending for the Tories in this maritime-inclined ward is Paul Metcalfe, who has recently retired as manager of the Eastbourne lifeboat station which is in this ward. The Lib Dem candidate is Roger Howarth, who works for Age Concern and is treasurer of Eastbourne Lib Dems. Surprisingly there is no UKIP candidate, so the ballot paper is completed by Labour’s Louis Thorburn.

Parliamentary constituency: Eastbourne
East Sussex county council division: Sovereign

May 2015 result C 2707/2366/2219 LD 1684/1360/1287 UKIP 1395/1081/984 Lab 514/463/437 Grn 321
May 2013 county council result C 1086 UKIP 930 LD 531 Lab 222
May 2011 result C 1904/1767/1745 LD 1193/1169/1106 Grn 488 Lab 359
June 2009 county council result C 1184 LD 989 Ind 809 UKIP 343 Grn 117 Lab 68
May 2007 result LD 1762/1756/1692 C 1379/1298/1294 Grn 269 Lab 121
May 2006 result C 1597 LD 914 Grn 181 Lab 125
May 2005 county council result C 2220 LD 2007 Grn 320
June 2004 result C 1517 LD 806 Grn 229
May 2003 result C 1255 LD 1040
May 2002 result C 1001/970/925 LD 648/638/632 Ind 175 Lab 172 Grn 124


TURN HILL

South Somerset council; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Shane Pledger. A builder and stonemason, he had served since 2011.

Saving the best till last, we are in Somerset for the most crucial by-election of the week. The Turn Hill ward is a rural area covering four-and-a-half parishes to the west of Somerton, none of which are called Turn Hill. The largest parish within the ward is High Ham, known as the location of England’s only remaining thatched windmill (Stembridge Tower Mill) and as the birthplace of the broadcaster and former Counterpoint host Ned Sherrin; however, the ward’s largest village is Long Sutton which has given the world Huntley and Palmer biscuits (George Palmer was from Long Sutton) and in latter years was the home of one of the victims of the Great Celebrity Purge of 2016, Yes Minister co-writer Sir Antony Jay.

Turn Hill was a fight between independent candidates in the 2000s, but party politics broke out in the 2011 election upon the retirement of independent councillor Rupert Cox: Pledger won 59-41 in a straight fight with the Lib Dems and increased his majority to 58-34 in the 2015 election. The ward is split between two county council divisions (Curry Rivel and Langport, and Somerton) both of which were safely Conservative in the 2013 county elections. This might suggest that the Conservatives are favoured to hold this seat, but the Lib Dems will definitely have their eye on it: they held the local parliamentary seat until 2015 and are still the largest party on South Somerset council with 30 out of 60 seats. As can be seen, a Lib Dem gain in this by-election will give the party an overall majority on the council.

Like John Humphreys says on Mastermind, there’s everything to play for so let’s get on with it. Defending for the Conservatives is Gerard Tucker, president of the Langport and Somerton Rotary club and the only candidate to give an address within the ward (in Aller). The Lib Dem candidate is Julia Gadd, a Langport town councillor who stood here in 2011. Completing the ballot paper is Sean Dromgoole for Labour.

Parliamentary constituency: Somerton and Frome
Somerset county council division: Curry Rivel and Langport (part: Aller, High Ham and Pitney parishes and part of Huish Episcopi parish); Somerton (part: Long Sutton parish)

May 2015 result C 1071 LD 635 Lab 142
May 2011 result C 744 LD 516
May 2007 result Ind 637 Ind 445
May 2003 result Ind unopposed