By the time you read these words, your columnist will be on holiday; playing for Wales B at the inaugural Quiz Olympiad in Athens over the weekend, taking in the sights of the city, the Acropolis, the Panathenaic stadium, the Olympiacos-Panathinaikos derby and some pleasant Mediterranean weather, and generally having a break from the internet. While you’re all stuck in Blighty. To cheer you up, here’s a preview of the ten by-elections in the first week of November…


Aberdeenshire council; caused respectively by the death of SNP councillor Ian Gray, at the age of 73, and the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Kitts-Hayes. Gray, a grandfather-of-four who had worked for Unilever and BT, was first elected to Aberdeenshire council in 2007. Kitts-Hayes had also served since 2007; he had left the Liberal Democrats in 2012 and his resignation came in the wake of a scandal dubbed “Legogate” in which he had returned early from an official trip to the North Sea Commission, at Legoland in Denmark, because he was unhappy with his accommodation.

We start this week in Scotland with what are likely to be the only two by-elections to be held in Aberdeenshire in 2016. Once the centre of its own county, Banff lies on the north coast of Aberdeenshire on the western side of the Deveron estuary; a former royal burgh, its traditional industry was fishing and in mediaeval times Banff did a roaring trade exporting salmon to Europe. Within the ward based on Banff are Duff House, a Georgian manor house designed by William Adam and now part of the National Gallery of Scotland; the tiny port of Portsoy and the planned inland village of Aberchirder.

While fishing is still important to Banff, Inverurie is a rather different kettle of fish: on the main road and railway line from Aberdeen to Inverness, Inverurie first grew in earnest after the opening of the Aberdeenshire Canal in 1806 which linked the town to Aberdeen. For most of the twentieth century Inverurie was a railway town, home to the locomotive works for the Great North of Scotland Railway; the local non-league football team is still called Inverurie Loco Works, but the main game in town these days is oil. Inverurie has boomed in population since the 1970s as a base for the North Sea oil industry and as a commuter centre for Aberdeen. The ward based on Inverurie is large enough for four seats taking only a small rural hinterland.

Inverurie may now be in Alex Salmond’s constituency at Westminster, but in 2003 it was a Lib Dem stronghold, the party carrying with large majorities all three of the old single-member wards covering the town. The introduction of PR allowed minority representation in Inverurie, with the Lib Dems winning two seats, the SNP one and the Conservatives one. One of the Lib Dem councillors stood for re-election as an independent in 2012, but lost his seat to the SNP; first preferences in 2012 were 37% for the SNP, 17% each for the Conservatives and Lib Dems and 13% for Labour.

The electoral dynamics of Banff are rather different; the SNP have been top dogs here for a long time, and the importance of fishing to the local economy meant that Banff and Buchan was the only constituency in Scotland to vote in favour of leaving the EU in June. Four years before that Banff and District ward gave a resounding win to the SNP, who led the Tories 55-23 in votes and 2-1 in seats, the Tories gaining their seat from the Lib Dems and a previously independent councillor being re-elected on the SNP slate. A side-effect of a rather short ballot paper in 2012 was a very strong vote for the Christian Party, who broke 10%.

These by-elections could alter the balance of power on Aberdeenshire council, which is finely balanced. The SNP are the largest party, but they are short of a majority and a rainbow anti-SNP coalition was formed to run the council after the 2012 elections; but this has since fallen apart and the SNP have formed a new administration with the support of Labour and some of the independent councillors. A gain in one of these by-elections could bolster the ruling coalition or tip the balance back the other way again.

Banff and District has a short ballot paper this time as well with just three candidates. Defending for the SNP is Glen Reynolds, a former Labour councillor in Darlington who stood for Parliament twice as a Labour candidate (Berwick-upon-Tweed in 2005, Banff and Buchan in 2010) before defecting to the SNP in 2012; a Unison shop steward, former libel solicitor and former investigative journalist, he is a director of Grampian Housing and until recently worked for the council as a housing and community safety officer. The Tory candidate is Iain Taylor, a King Edward and Gamrie community councillor, and completing the ballot paper is Alistair Mason for the Lib Dems.

The Lib Dems have it all to do to defend their seat in Inverurie given the circumstances that led to the by-election and the fact that they only polled 17% in the 2012 local election. Their candidate is Alison Auld, who has 17 years’ experience as a caseworker. Hoping to gain for the SNP is Neil Baillie, a community councillor working in the North Sea oil industry. The Tories have selected Colin Clark, an entrepreneur who is straight off the campaign trail having fought the local Scottish Parliament seat (Aberdeenshire East) in May. Completing the ballot paper is Labour candidate Sarah Flavell, chair of the non-profit organisation Gordon Rural Action.

Banff and District

Parliamentary constituency: Banff and Buchan
Holyrood constituency: Banffshire and Buchan Coast

May 2012 first preferences SNP 1840 C 768 LD 369 Christian 342
May 2007 first preferences SNP 1588 Ind 1340 LD 694 C 616 Grn 298

Inverurie and District

Parliamentary constituency: Gordon
Holyrood constituency: Aberdeenshire East

May 2012 first preferences SNP 1300 C 608 LD 606 Lab 463 Ind 407 Grn 113
May 2007 first preferences LD 2181 SNP 1515 C 762 Lab 567 Ind 123


Lancashire county council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Misfar Hassan. He had served since winning a by-election in 2010.

Welcome to Burrnley. Once you’ve parrked yourr carr in the carr parrk, take a look in the town centre which once held the dubious title of being home to the UK’s largest charity shop. Go to Turf Moor to watch the Clarets, the town’s football team who may be back in the Premier but aren’t yet having a vintage season (although they did take a point off Manchester United at the weekend); the football club hosts one of the polling stations for this by-election. Look in the estate agents’ windows – Burnley has some of the lowest property prices in England – and try to get your head around the town’s strange rhotic accent. Try the locals’ favourite tipple: not Moorhouse’s beer but Bénédictine liqueur, which were originally brought back to the town by soldiers from the First World War who have made Burnley Miners’ Club the world’s single biggest consumer of Bénédictine. A classic Lancashire mill town with historically some coalmining, Burnley’s economy is now based on services and high-end manufacturing for the aerospace industry. The division is linked to the outside world by the M65 motorway and Burnley Central railway station – located on the Colne branch, now down to just one platform and no longer the main station for the town, which is Burnley Manchester Road.

The two-and-a-bit Burnley council wards which make up Burnley Central East have some unusual demographic features. Burnley doesn’t have a particularly large Pakistani population by Lancashire milltown standards, but that population is nearly all packed into Daneshouse with Stoneyholme ward. Daneshouse with Stoneyholme has the highest proportion of the workforce “looking after home or family” of any ward in England and Wales (16%), the fourth-highest Muslim population (76%), the fourth-highest proportion who have never worked or are long-term unemployed (28%), the sixth-highest population of Asian ethnicity (79%) and the seventh-highest proportion of under-16s (32%). One wonders what all those kids are going to do with their lives, given the town’s poor economic prospects. Just a couple of miles to the east, Brunshaw ward (above Turf Moor), although just as deprived, is determinedly white, while Bank Hall ward (along the Leeds-Liverpool canal), a former coal-mining area, is somewhere in between both geographically and demographically.

Central East contains some of the most dependable Labour parts of Burnley. Bank Hall is one of only three wards in Burnley to have voted Labour every year since 2002; Daneshouse with Stoneyholme voted Lib Dem a few times during the Blair and Brown years but Labour won without a contest in 2015 and polled 88% in May. Brunshaw ward elected a BNP councillor in 2003 and voted Lib Dem a few times in the following years, but is now a Labour versus UKIP battle in the way of many white working-class areas, with Labour winning 49-37 in May. The county division as a whole narrowly voted Lib Dem in 2009, but the Lib Dem county councillor died less than a year later and Labour recovered their loss in the by-election, held on general election day in 2010. At the most recent county election in 2013 the Lib Dems fell to third place and Labour beat UKIP 58-19.

Defending for Labour is Sobia Malik, a Burnley borough councillor for Bank Hall ward, an education consultant and author of a book on the town and its links with Pakistan; her father Rafique Malik was a Burnley councillor for 30 years and served as the town’s mayor, while her brother Shahid Malik was Labour MP for Dewsbury from 2005 to 2010. The UKIP candidate is Mark Girven, a web designer. Also standing are off-licence owner Emma Payne for the Lib Dems and Laura Fisk for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Burnley
Burnley council wards: Bank Hall (part); Brunshaw; Daneshouse with Stoneyholme

May 2013 result Lab 2022 UKIP 675 LD 540 C 181 BNP 60
May 2010 by-election Lab 3157 LD 2279 BNP 868 C 815
June 2009 result LD 1748 Lab 1676 BNP 547 C 444
May 2005 result Lab 3012 LD 2169 C 936


Cardiff city council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Chris Lomax at the age of 73. He had served since 2012; described as a strong family man and true gentleman, despite poor health Lomax kept working for his community until the end and attended his final council meeting the day before he died.

Welcome to Cardiff Bay, that controversial lake at the mouth of the Taff and Ely rivers which has been the subject of one of the more successful regeneration projects in recent years. Grangetown ward lies at the other end of the Bay, between the two rivers; at its south end is Cardiff International Sports Village, home to the city’s ice rink, Olympic swimming pool and whitewater rafting, and linked to Penarth on the other side of the river by the new Pont y Werin footbridge. Further to the north are the Cardiff branch of IKEA and the Canton railway yards, while Grangetown railway station (on the Vale of Glamorgan line) links the ward with Cardiff city centre. The area’s dockland history has left a multi-racial population, with a particularly high black population by Welsh standards (8.4%) and a relatively high number of Welsh speakers for the city.

Grangetown was a Lib Dem ward in the Noughties when the Lib Dems were running Cardiff council, but their vote crashed in the 2012 election; from being a three-way Lib Dem/Labour/Plaid marginal in 2008 Grangetown is now a Labour/Plaid marginal, with vote shares in 2012 being 40% for Labour, 33% for Plaid and 11% for the Lib Dems.

Defending for Labour is Maliika Kaaba, who works for a local women’s community group. Plaid have selected Tariq Awan, who is described as a part-time community banker. Former Lib Dem councillor Asghar Ali, Cardiff’s first Pakistani councillor, is seeking to make a return to the council after standing down here in 2012. Also on the ballot paper are two candidates who work in the Senedd for assembly members: Michael Bryan for the Conservatives and Richard Lewis for UKIP, who gives an address in, er, Swindon.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Cardiff South and Penarth
May 2012 result Lab 1812/1709/1704 PC 1511/1467/1391 LD 505/501/489 C 308/266/251 Grn 215/205 Christian 84 Communist 77
May 2008 result LD 1357/1319/1317 Lab 1138/1131/1104 PC 1099/1009/920 C 546/533/482 Communist 117
June 2004 result LD 1424/1417/1404 Lab 1122/1113/1072 PC 838/764/749 C 427/420/369


Vale of Glamorgan council; caused by the resignation of long-serving Labour councillor Rob Curtis. Curtis, a former cabinet member on the council, had pleaded guilty last year to common assault on a 17-year-old girl; his resignation came after the Adjudication Panel for Wales suspended him from council duties for three months for bringing the council into disrepute.

For our other Welsh by-election this week we are in Barry, Wales’ fifth largest and southernmost town. Barry was traditionally a dock town and a seaside resort – not well-paying industries, and Gibbonsdown ward has borne the brunt of that, being a council estate on the northern edge of town with high unemployment. The most interesting census indicator is that Gibbonsdown makes the top 100 wards in England and Wales for “no religion”, with 44% professing to be atheists or agnostics. This is a safe Labour division and the main interest usually lies in who comes second; in 2012 that was an independent slate, which Labour beat 62-24.

Defending for Labour is Julie Aviet. Dennis Harkus, the runner-up here in 2012, is trying again; he is a former Labour figure and former leader of Barry town council. Also on the ballot paper are Leighton Rowlands for the Conservatives, Barry town councillor Shirley Hodges for Plaid Cymru, Jennifer Geroni for the Lib Dems and Robin Hunter-Clarke for UKIP.

Parliamentary and Assembly constituency: Vale of Glamorgan
May 2012 result Lab 787/754 Ind 301/300 C 105/102 PC 76/73
May 2008 result Lab 757/699 C 332/321 PC 308/239 Lib 73
June 2004 result Lab 727/636 PC 371/356 Socialist Labour 69


Gloucester city council; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Jim Porter. He had served since 2008.

It’s not often this column gets to talk about a by-election in Gloucester – Keith Edkins’ index of local by-elections since 1995 lists only two to the city council, and the last one was in 2001. One reason for this is Gloucester’s thirds electoral system, which provides opportunities each year for vacancies to be combined with an ordinary election, but Gloucester moved to whole council elections this year so that consideration will not apply in the future.

The Longlevens ward lies on the north-eastern edge of the city, between the Tewkesbury and Cheltenham roads; consisting entirely of privately-developed twentieth-century housing, it was only fully incorporated into Gloucester in 1967 and has a lower-middle-class demographic. The area suffered badly in the floods of summer 2007, and is still sufficiently semi-detached from Gloucester to have been transferred into the Tewkesbury constituency in 2010.

Gloucester got new ward boundaries this year, but these resulted in no change to Longlevens ward whose present boundaries date from 2002. It has normally been a Conservative ward over that period, although the Lib Dems won it in 2004 and came close on a number of other occasions pre-coalition. In May, with all three seats up for election, the Tory slate won with 42% against evenly divided opposition – 18% for Labour, 14% for UKIP, 13% each for the Lib Dems and Greens. The Conservatives also hold the Longlevens county council seat, which includes part of Elmbridge ward to the south.

Defending for the Tories is Clive Walford, who played on the back row for Gloucester Rugby in the mid-1970s and chairs the Gloucester rugby players association; away from the pitch he is coming to the end of a 31-year career in the criminal justice system. The Labour candidate Terry Haines, who was runner-up here in 2015 and in May, is hoping to go one better. UKIP have selected Daniel Woolf, who was a Tory candidate in May’s city council elections, and the Lib Dem candidate is Linda Castle, former treasurer of the Gloucester dyslexia association.

Parliamentary constituency: Tewkesbury
Gloucestershire county council division: Longlevens

May 2016 result C 1657/1636/1410 Lab 696 UKIP 541 LD 515 Grn 494
May 2015 result C 2870 Lab 955 UKIP 815 LD 548 Grn 262
May 2014 result C 1545 UKIP 683 Lab 463 LD 282 Grn 135
May 2012 result C 1425 LD 1111 Lab 372 Grn 127
May 2011 result C 2005 LD 821 Lab 695
May 2010 result C 2958 LD 1686 Lab 863
May 2008 result C 1819 LD 1537 Lab 172
May 2007 result C 1884 LD 822 Lab 272 UKIP 158
May 2006 result C 1962 LD 1256 Lab 215
June 2004 result LD 1704 C 1650 Lab 247
May 2003 result C 1506 LD 1287 Lab 269
May 2002 result C 1511/1465/1367 LD 1246/1118/1001 Lab 386/329/307


Eastleigh council, Hampshire; caused by the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Roger Smith at the age of 72. A long-serving member of Eastleigh council, serving from 1991 to 1995 and continuously since 2002, Smith was Mayor of Eastleigh in 2007/8.

For the first of our four by-elections in the Home Counties we are in rural Hampshire. Lying on the eastern edge of the Eastleigh built-up area in the shadow of the South Downs, Fair Oak took its name from a tree in the village square around which an annual fair was held. The village became a parish of its own in 1894; although its traditional industry was sand quarrying it now has a commuter demographic with high employment levels.

Eastleigh council is a Lib Dem stronghold as is this ward; although the Tories came very close to gaining Fair Oak in the 2015 local elections, by May this year the Lib Dem position had recovered to 39%, to 27% for the Tories and 22% for UKIP. The high UKIP score is influenced by the parliamentary by-election in early 2013, which UKIP nearly won, and in the county council elections a couple of months later the Kippers actually gained the local county council division (Bishopstoke and Fair Oak).

Defending for the Lib Dems is Nicholas Couldry. The Tories’ Steven Broomfield is fighting his second Eastleigh by-election of the year, after losing in West End North (the ward he represented on Eastleigh council from 2003 to 2007) in February. UKIP’s Hugh McGuinness, a Fair Oak and Horton Heath parish councillor, is making his twelfth attempt to be elected to Eastleigh council from this ward – his best performance so far was second place in 2014. Completing the ballot paper is Labour’s John Sorley, another Fair Oak and Horton Heath parish councillor.

Parliamentary constituency: Eastleigh
Hampshire county council division: Bishopstoke and Fair Oak

May 2016 result LD 959 C 661 UKIP 547 Lab 279
May 2015 result LD 1728 C 1671 UKIP 1014 Lab 447
May 2014 result LD 1150 UKIP 780 C 634 Lab 244
May 2012 result LD 1087 C 504 Lab 291 UKIP 221
May 2011 result LD 1434 C 878 Lab 398 UKIP 261
May 2010 result LD 2737 C 1703 Lab 336 UKIP 273
May 2008 result LD 1274 C 887 UKIP 144 Lab 138
May 2007 result LD 1358 C 890 Lab 156 UKIP 149
May 2006 result LD 1053 C 903 Lab 168 UKIP 143
June 2004 result LD 1008 C 614 UKIP 365 Lab 212
May 2003 result LD 944 C 330 Lab 191 UKIP 148
May 2002 result LD 1208/1117/1116 C 611/522/496 Lab 190/183/182


Hackney council, North London; caused by the election of Labour councillor Philip Glanville as Mayor of Hackney in a by-election in September. He had served as a councillor since 2006.

For our London by-election this week we are in a fast-changing area of central London. We have heard much in recent decades about California’s Silicon Valley; London has Silicon Roundabout, a road junction above Old Street underground station. The financial crash of 2008 led to office rents in this traditionally run-down area falling to the level where they became attractive to technology start-up companies, and since 2009 several tech firms have set up London offices here. The quick rise of what has become known as East London Tech City is too soon to be fully reflected by the 2011 census, and given the May government’s immigration policy may well have been snuffed out by the time of the 2021 census; for what it’s worth, Hoxton ward (the predecessor to this ward) in 2011 made several top 100 lists for England and Wales, including for Buddhism (1.76%), population born in the the EU-14 (7.8%), mixed-race ethnicity (6.9%), “other” ethnic groups (5.8%) and social renting (54% of households).

It’s that last statistic that drives the area’s local elections: this is a safe Labour ward. Hoxton West ward has only existed on these boundaries since 2014; its predecessor ward of Hoxton (2002-14) was equally safe Labour, but the Wenlock ward which existed before 2002 was a Liberal and Lib Dem hotspot in the 1980s and 1990s. The Lib Dem vote in the ward has since disappeared and in 2014 (the only previous result on these boundaries) Labour led the Greens 57-20. In May’s GLA elections Sadiq Khan crushed Zac Goldsmith here 62-16, while in the London Members ballot Labour led with 55% to 13% each for the Tories and Greens.

So Labour’s defending candidate Yvonne Maxwell shouldn’t lose too much sleep over this result; according to her Twitter she is a Socialist Feminist with 36 years of Labour party membership. The Green party candidate is Morgan James, and completing the ballot paper are former Hackney councillor Christopher Sills for the Conservatives and Chantal Encavey for the Lib Dems.

May 2014 result Lab 1693/1687/1634 Grn 602/487/448 C 362/339/326 LD 190/182/161 TUSC 136
May 2016 GLA results (excludes postal voters)
Mayor: Lab 1616 C 426 Grn 214 LD 100 Women’s Equality 76 UKIP 56 Respect 33 Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol 24 Britain First 21 BNP 19 Zylinski 11 One Love 4
London Member: Lab 1431 C 345 Grn 328 LD 138 Women’s Equality 136 UKIP 94 Respect 41 Britain First 26 Animal Welfare 25 CPA 23 BNP 17 House Party 17


Reigate and Banstead council, Surrey; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Joan Spiers. First elected in 1984, Spiers was leader of Reigate and Banstead council from 2003 to 2007 and again from 2008 to 2014; after stepping down as leader she was Mayor of Reigate and Banstead in 2015/16.

Out of London now, but staying within the M25 motorway. There are a few Kingswoods around the UK; this is the Surrey one, located high up on the North Downs. Although Toyota has its UK offices here, Kingswood is the archetypal Surrey commuter village, with Kingswood railway station (on Southern’s Tattenham Corner branch) connecting the ward to Croydon and London, and it has a demographic to match.

It also has election results to match. This is a safe Tory ward with little of interest in its previous results; in May the Conservatives beat UKIP here 67-22. The ward is split between three Surrey county council divisions all of which are safe Conservative.

Defending for the Conservatives is Rod Ashford, a professional photographer and designer and chairman of the Lower Kingswood Village Fete. The UKIP candidate is former RAF air traffic controller Gerard Hever, and the ballot paper is completed by Tony Robinson (no, not that one) for Labour and Shasha Khan for the Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Reigate
Surrey county council division: Tadworth, Walton and Kingswood (Kingswood and Burgh Heath); Merstham and Banstead South (Lower Kingswood); Banstead, Woodmansterne and Chipstead (Perrotts Wood)

May 2016 result C 1174 UKIP 381 Lab 205
May 2015 result C 2695 UKIP 818 Grn 437
May 2014 result C 1194 UKIP 669 Grn 228
May 2012 result C 1115 UKIP 413 Lab 155
May 2011 result C 1745 UKIP 535
May 2010 result C 2489 LD 809 UKIP 431
May 2008 result C 1385 UKIP 291 Lab 137
May 2007 result C 1221 LD 254 UKIP 248
May 2006 result C 1299 UKIP 160 EDP 129
June 2004 result C 1156 UKIP 431 LD 208 Lab 141
May 2003 result C 785 UKIP 288 LD 160 Lab 98
May 2002 result C 1169 Lab 322
May 2000 result C 1047/1042/991 Lab 208


Medway council, Kent; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Mike O’Brien. A former Royal Navy radio supervisor and insurance broker, O’Brien was first elected in 1976 to the former Gillingham borough council, becoming the Conservative group leader in 1996 a year before the council was abolished. He was also a Kent county councillor from 1977 to 1981, representing the former Gillingham No 2 division. O’Brien returned to elected office in 2007 for the new Medway council and had served in the council’s cabinet since 2010, since 2013 as head of children’s services.

We finish this week in the Medway towns. A couple of weeks this column covered a UKIP loss n the westernmost Medway town, Strood; this week we’re in the easternmost Medway town, Rainham. A sleepy village until the Chatham Main Line came in 1858, Rainham was incorporated into Gillingham in 1928, and most of the housing in Rainham Central ward – which runs south from Watling Street along the Maidstone Road – dates from the mid-twentieth century when the electrification of the railway led to a second housing boom.

Rainham Central was fairly close between the Tories and Lib Dems in 2003 but the Tories have pulled away from the field, helped by a large personal vote for the Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti who still sits on Medway council for this ward. In 2015 the Tories polled 51% to 22% for UKIP and 16% for Labour.

Defending for the Tories is Jan Aldous. UKIP have selected Mark Mencattelli, who had a near-miss in Gillingham North ward last year. The Labour candidate is Simon Allen, a freelance journalist, and the ballot paper is completed by George Meegan for the Green Party, Paul Chaplin for the Lib Dems and Mike Russell for the English Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Gillingham and Rainham

May 2015 result C 4386/3473/3115 UKIP 1854 Lab 1405/1018/946 Grn 665 TUSC 165 Ind 92
May 2011 result C 2931/2538/2514 Lab 938/917/912 UKIP 412 LD 308/298/251 Grn 286
May 2007 result C 2353/2216/2204 LD 1081/905/818 Ind 1008/622 Lab 503/408/389 UKIP 310
May 2003 result C 1415/1357/1307 LD 1121/1109/1061 Lab 470/437/434 UKIP 167