By-elections on 8th December 2016:


SLEAFORD AND NORTH HYKEHAM

House of Commons; caused by the resignation of Conservative MP Stephen Phillips, who is dissatisfied with the Government’s strategy for leaving the European Union. He had served since 2010.

For the first time since 1990 we have two parliamentary by-elections taking place in successive weeks. After last week’s sensational poll in Richmond, Surrey, today we are in a rather different part of the UK.

The Sleaford and North Hykeham constituency covers a large swathe of rural Lincolnshire to the south of Lincoln. It is named after its only two towns. Sleaford, the larger of the two, was once the home of the county council for the Parts of Kesteven, the south-western of Lincolnshire’s three Parts, and now houses the National Centre for Craft and Design, an arts centre on a disused wharf on the River Slea. Sleaford grew up in the 19th century as an agricultural centre, with seeds and maltings as important industries. Rather different is North Hykeham, which is a Lincoln suburb that has never been incorporated into the city. Also here are a couple of tiny corners of Grantham where recent development has spilled over the town limits. But the political tone of the constituency is set by the many villages within the seat, while the presence of RAF Cranwell, at which the Royal Air Force trains its officers and flying instructors, provides a military tone to the area. The Lincoln Cliff runs through the seat from north to south, with higher ground to the east overlooking the low-lying Trent Valley to the west and Holland to the east – the Parts of Holland, not the country on the other side of the North Sea.

The general pattern of parliamentary constituencies in what was Kesteven, with a northern and a southern seat, has survived basically unchanged since 1885 but the northern seat has had varying names: from 1885 to 1918 it was called Sleaford, from 1918 to 1997 Grantham, only taking on its current name in 1997 when Grantham was moved out of the seat. (The Boundary Commission had originally proposed resurrecting the name Mid Lincolnshire, but that didn’t survive the public inquiry.) If the proposed boundary changes go through as they are, then the Sleaford name will be revived for the 2020 election with North Hykeham moving into the Lincoln constituency.

Sleaford’s first MP in 1885 was already a political veteran. Henry Chaplin, the so-called Squire of Blankney, had been in the Commons since 1868 as MP for Mid Lincolnshire; a major landowner in the county, Chaplin was also a prominent racehorse owner whose horse, Hermit, had won the Derby in 1867. Going into the 1885 election he had joined government for the first time as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; although he held his seat, defeating the Liberal candidate Charles Sharpe 58-42, the Tories lost that election and it took Chaplin until 1889 to join Cabinet, as the first President of the Board of Agriculture in Salisbury’s administration; in order to take up that appointment Chaplin had to seek re-election in his constituency, that being the rule until the First World War; he had to seek re-election again upon his re-appointment to the Cabinet in 1895 as President of the Local Government Board, his Agriculture appointment having ended in 1892.

Chaplin wasn’t included in Salisbury’s cabinet after the 1900 election, and went to the backbenches where he campaigned in favour of tariff reform. After 38 years as MP for Sleaford he was swept away in the Liberal landslide of 1906, but returned to the Commons a year later by winning a by-election in Wimbledon, and was later translated to the Lords as the first Viscount Chaplin. In an interesting link with last week’s Richmond by-election, Henry Chaplin was Zac Goldsmith’s great-great-grandfather: his daughter Edith married the 7th Marquess of Londonderry, whose granddaughter Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart married James Goldsmith.

The new Liberal MP for Sleaford was Arnold Lupton, a professor of mining at Leeds University and colliery director. A free trade supporter, Lupton was at odds with Herbert Asquith on several issues and never got anywhere near government; Lupton was later sent to prison for pacifist activity during the Great War. He was rather soundly defeated in the first 1910 election by the Tories’ Edmund Royds, a major in the Lincolnshire Yeomanry and a solicitor from a Cheshire family, who before the Great War intervened concentrated on opposing Lloyd George’s land tax and the consequent revaulation.

The redistribution of 1918 abolished the Grantham parliamentary borough and moved the town of Grantham into the Sleaford constituency, which was then renamed as Grantham. The boundary changes improved the Liberal position and Royds, who was endorsed by the Coalition, did well to be re-elected over the Liberal candidate Robert Pattinson. In 1922 Royds’ luck ran out and Pattinson won their rematch by a majority of 428 votes. Royds didn’t seek to return to Parliament after his defeat but did remain prominent in Lincolnshire public life; he was a High Sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1931 and was knighted in 1939 for political and public services in Lincolnshire.

Robert Pattinson, a railway contractor and builders merchant from Sleaford, was a long-standing member of Kesteven county council which was based in Sleaford; he joined in Parliament his brother-in-law Richard Winfrey (South West Norfolk, 1906-23) and his brother Samuel Pattinson (Horncastle, 1922-24). His time in Parliament was a short one; the 1920s were a turbulent time in British politics and Robert Pattinson lost his seat in the 1923 election having been an MP for only a year. Although there was talk of Pattinson returning to Parliament in the 1937 Holland-with-Boston by-election, this didn’t come to fruition and Pattinson’s remaining career was spent in local government: he served for twenty years as chairman of Kesteven county council, and a secondary school in North Hykeham is still named after him today.

As stated, in 1923 Grantham went back to the Conservatives against the national trend with their new candidate Sir Richard Warrender, 8th Baronet, a godson of Queen Victoria who had won the Military Cross while serving with the Grenadier Guards in the Great War. After being re-elected in 1924 with a much larger majority over the new Liberal candidate, the controversial former Eye MP Alexander Lyle-Samuel, Warrender embarked on a long career in various minor government positions which was only interrupted by the Tories being out of power from 1929 to 1931. His career in government – by then as Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty – outlasted his Commons career, which was ended by his elevation to the Lords in 1942 as the first Lord Bruntisfield.

Bruntisfield’s peerage meant that there would have to be a by-election in Grantham in March 1942. This was one of the low points of the Second World War for the Allies, coming just after the fall of Singapore with the Red Army in retreat on the Eastern Front. The Tories had selected for the by-election Sir Arthur Longmore, who had recently retired from the RAF with the rank of Air Chief Marshal; he had briefly served as Air Officer Commanding in the Middle East and, with RAF Cranwell in full swing, looked a suitable candidate. With the wartime election truce in effect, Longmore was opposed only by independent candidate Denis Kendall, managing director of a highly productive arms production factory in Grantham, whose workers were well-paid and well-served with entertainment. Despite disclosing officially-secret wartime production figures during the election campaign, Kendall won the by-election with a majority of just 367 votes.

Denis Kendall was a larger-than-life figure whose pre-Parliamentary career included running away to sea at 14 followed by spells raiding opium dens on the Yangtse River, as a cabaret owner in Shanghai, as a steeplejack in the USA and as works manager for the Citroën car factory in Paris. Even before his election MI5 and MI6 had Kendall under surveillance for far-right sympathies, suspected black market and smuggling activity and links to foreign companies. That didn’t stop Kendall being re-elected in 1945, but he lost a fraud case in 1949 – being ordered to repay a £15,000 investment which he had used to pay creditors – and lost his seat the following year, finishing third in Grantham with 28%. Kendall made one attempt to get the Grantham seat back, standing in 1951 as the Liberal candidate without success.

The Tories took Grantham back in 1950 with their new candidate Eric Smith, who had a tragically short tenure in office – he died in August 1951 at the age of just 42. With a new general election imminent no by-election was held to replace Smith, and the 1951 election returned the new Tory candidate Joseph Godber, a Bedfordshire county councillor from a farming background – he chaired the glasshouse section of the NFU and sat on the Tomato and Cucumber Marketing Board. At the time Grantham was a marginal seat where Labour had become strong, and Godber faced a stern test in the 1955 election in which his Labour opponent was the outgoing MP Woodrow Wyatt, whose Birmingham Aston constituency had disappeared in boundary changes; Wyatt would later return to the Commons as MP for Bosworth in Leicestershire. Godber won that election by 51% to 46%, and would go on to defeat another former Labour MP, Tom Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford, 1945-50), in the 1959 election by 57-43.

By now Godber was on the junior rungs of government, and his big break into the Cabinet came in Macmillan’s 1963 reshuffle in which Godber was appointed War Secretary; however, he was in Cabinet for less than four months before being demoted when Douglas-Home came to power. Grantham had a close result in the Wilson landslide of 1966 when Godber won his fifth term by 48-44 over Labour’s Mary Large, but in the 1970s the Labour vote collapsed and the seat became true-blue Tory. Godber retired to the Lords in 1979.

The 1979 election returned a new MP for Grantham: Douglas Hogg, son of the long-serving MP Quintin Hogg who had been a fixture of the Tory frontbench since the Eden administration and, as a result of the Tories’ return to power in 1979, became Lord Chancellor. Douglas had the stereotypical early life for a Tory politician: Eton; Christ Church, Oxford; president of the Oxford Union in 1967; called to the Bar a year later, and took silk in 1990. Hogg served in the Commons for 31 years, a career which is principally remembered for being Minister of Agriculture at the height of the BSE crisis in the 1990s, and for the 2009 expenses scandal in which it was revealed that Hogg had claimed and been paid £2,000 from the parliamentary expenses office for the cost of clearing the moat around his country estate. This prompted a rather abrupt retirement from the Commons; Hogg had succeeded to the title of Viscount Hailsham in 2001, but despite entering a couple of hereditary peer by-elections didn’t enter the Lords until he obtained a life peerage in October 2015. In doing so, he joined his wife Sarah who is a life peer in her own right, having headed John Major’s policy unit; Baroness Hogg had also worked as a journalist (briefly presenting Channel 4 News) and later became the first woman to chair a FTSE 100 company, 3i Group.

As stated, boundary changes in 1997 removed Grantham from this seat and renamed it as Sleaford and North Hykeham. The 1997 Blair landslide was the only time since 1966 when the Tory majority fell below 10 points, so Hogg’s enforced retirement in 2010 cleared the way for Stephen Phillips, a barrister and recorder who had also briefly held a commission in the Welsh Guards; his only previous electoral experience had come in 2008 when he lost a Conservative seat to the Lib Dems in a by-election to Camden council in London. Phillips never got off the backbenches and attracted criticism during his time in Parliament for continuing to spend over 30 hours a week working as a barrister. Although Phillips was on the Brexit side of the referendum debate, his resignation came due to “irreconcilable policy differences” with the May administration, and Phillips had previously criticised the Government’s attempts to leave the EU without consulting Parliament – a subject we have heard a lot more of this week.

Phillips was certainly in tune with his constituents on the EU question – the North Kesteven local government district, on which this constituency is based, voted 62% Leave in May. This seat is similar to Richmond Park only in the sense that it had a big Tory lead in the 2015 election: 56%, to 17% for Labour and 16% for UKIP. All five candidates in 2015 saved their deposit, including independent candidate Marianne Overton, leader of the Lincolnshire Independents council group, who had also saved her deposit here in 2010.

The local elections in 2015, held on the same day as the general election, are rather difficult to interpret because most wards only had Tory and Independent candidates, and two wards had unopposed returns. The pink areas on the map above are Lincolnshire Independent seats, except for the one in North Hykeham which went to a Hykeham Independent candidate. In by-elections in 2015 the Tories held Belvoir ward (not all of which is within this seat) and gained a Lincolnshire Independent seat in North Hykeham Mill; but the Lincolnshire Independents have done well in 2016’s by-elections, gaining Ashby de la Launde and Cranwell ward from the Conservatives and holding a seat in Cliff Villages ward.

The 2013 Lincolnshire county council elections demonstrate the former Lib Dem vote in North Hykeham, but judging from the lack of candidates there in 2015 the party’s administration in this seat seems to have fallen apart. The Conservatives held a by-election in Grantham Barrowby in 2015.

This is one of the areas of England least affected by the immigration and social changes of the last few decades – the non-white population is just 1% and EU immigration rates are low (and mostly concentrated in Sleaford town). The constituency also has a large retired population and scored very highly on the census for Christianity.

With little to indicate that any other party is putting in a strong campaign, the Tory candidate should have little to lose sleep over. She is Caroline Johnson, a consultant paediatrician who fought Scunthorpe in the 2010 general election. Equality campaigners will note that if she is elected the proportion of female MPs will rise above 30% for the first time.

The Labour candidate is local resident Jim Clarke, a binman, former postman and GMB activist.

There was talk of Suzanne Evans seeking the UKIP nomination, but after she decided trying to be party leader was more important UKIP selected Victoria Ayling, a Lincolnshire county councillor representing Spilsby Fen division. She was the Conservative candidate for Great Grimsby in the 2010 general election, losing to Austin Mitchell by just 714 votes, and stood there again in 2015 as the UKIP candidate, blowing what had been seen as one of the party’s top targets; in May she was the UKIP candidate for Lincolnshire police and crime commissioner.

The Lib Dem candidate is Ross Pepper, who lives in Lincoln and fought that seat in the 2015 general election.

Marianne Overton is standing again for the Lincolnshire Independents after saving her deposit in 2010 and 2015; she is the Lincolnshire county councillor for Branston and Navenby division and represents Cliff Villages ward on North Kesteven council.

However, turning to the other candidates on the ballot paper suggests that the Lincolnshire Independents have suffered a split. Mark Suffield, who is a Lincolnshire Independent mmeber of North Kesteven district council (representing Sleaford Quarrington and Mareham ward) is standing without a ballot paper description, as is Paul Coyne who was elected to Sleaford town council on the Lincolnshire Independents ticket. Yet another independent candidate on the ballot paper is Sarah Stock, who is campaigning on a Save the NHS ticket and is endorsed by the Green Party. Completing the ballot paper are Peter Hill of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, standing under the pseudonym “The Iconic Arty-Pole”, and regular by-election candidate David Bishop for his Bus-Pass Elvis Party.

May 2015 result C 34805 Lab 10690 UKIP 9716 LD 3500 Lincs Ind 3233
May 2010 result C 30719 LD 10814 Lab 10051 Lincs Ind 3806 UKIP 2163 BNP 1977


UNIVERSITY AND SCOTFORTH RURAL

Lancaster council; caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Matt Mann, who has taken up a new job away from Lancaster. He had served since 2015.

“Patet ominbus veritas”
– Motto of Lancaster University

A few weeks back your columnist rather confidently predicted that the Oxford Dictionaries Word of 2016 would be “Brexit”. For whatever reason (perhaps the word is too old?), the lexicographers went for a new concept which we have indeed seen much of in 2016: “post-truth”. This is a concept anathema to this column, whose remit is first and foremost to inform; and anathema to Lancaster University, whose motto translates as “truth lies open to all”. Several of the recent Oxford Words of the Year have failed to stand the test of time – “squeezed middle”, anyone? – and it remains to be seen whether post-truth politics is here to stay or a flash in the pan.

Lancaster University forms the centre of a remarkable electoral ward which may give us some insight into the student politics of today. One of the 1960s tranche of universities, Lancaster epitomises the campus style of building, with its own purpose-built centre opened in 1968 at at Bailrigg, on a hill between the West Coast Main Line, the A6 road and the M6 motorway. In its short life Lancaster has supplied several MPs including two currently serving – Alan Campbell (politics, Furness College) and Simon Danczuk (sociology, Cartmel college) – a present MEP, Theresa Griffin (English and theatre studies, Cartmel college), UKIP’s failed leadership candidate and newly-appointed health spokeswoman Suzanne Evans (religious studies, Cartmel college) and former cabinet member Alan Milburn (history, Pendle college) who is now the University’s chancellor. The expansion of higher education has led to the University campus expanding to the south-west, across the parish boundary into Galgate parish; the university itself took a swathe out of the rump Scotforth parish – the populated part of Scotforth had already been incorporated into Lancaster – and left that parish divided into two parts. As can be seen, the parish boundaries here are rather out of date.

The ward boundaries aren’t. University and Scotforth Rural was created in 2015 as an expansion of the former University ward, which was tightly drawn around the original campus; the expanded ward includes the rump Scotforth parish, the south-west campus and an extra, third councillor. The old University ward had unique demographics – it was number 1 in England and Wales for the 18-29 age group (94.3% of the population), number 1 in England and Wales for full-time students (93.6% of the workforce), number 1 in England and Wales for those educated to A-level but no further (67.6% of the workforce), and interestingly made the top 100 for households living rent-free, although this may be because the census only recognised sixty-two households in the ward that weren’t student accommodation. If you want to know how students vote, look here.

On the basis of previous results for University ward, Lancaster’s students (those of whom who bother to vote in local elections) are left-wing and volatile – although electoral volatility shouldn’t come as a surprise given that the campus is very much a bubble and its population turns over every year. The old University ward voted Lib Dem in 2003, Green in 2007 and Labour in 2011; the expanded ward split its seats in 2015 between two Labour candidates and one Green Party, with shares of the vote being 35% for Labour, 32% for the Green Party and 24% for the Tory slate (one of whom rejoiced in the name of Ice Dong). Most of the ward lies within the Lancaster South East county division, a Labour-inclined marginal whose political tone is set by Lancaster rather than the campus.

Since 2015 the introduction of individual electoral registration has led to a dramatic drop in the University’s electorate for the 2015-16 electoral register, as the University was no longer able to register students to vote en bloc. The University has had success in reversing this drop by asking students whether they would like to opt out of registering to vote as part of the course registration process. However, while this does mean that the University is able to handle electoral registration again, the applications can’t go to Lancaster council until after term has started which leads to a bit of a lag: although Mann started his new job in September he delayed his resignation in order to ensure that the electoral register was as complete as possible for the by-election.

Not surprisingly all four candidates for the by-election are students. Defending for Labour is Nathan Burns, who is originally from London and whose campaign has been supported by none other than Jeremy Corbyn. Hopefully Corbyn didn’t have too much trouble with Virgin Trains on the way up from London. The Green candidate is Bowland college student Xeina Aveyard, an anti-fracking campaigner. The Tories have selected Luke Brandon, a masters student who chairs the University’s Conservative Future branch. Completing the ballot paper is third-year student Pippa Hepworth, reselected by the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Lancaster and Fleetwood
Lancashire county council division: Lancaster South East (former University ward), Lancaster Central (part: detached part of Scotforth parish), Lancaster Rural East (part: Scotforth parish except the detached part, and part of Galgate parish)

May 2015 result Lab 605/500/480 Grn 555/440/417 C 405/391/339 LD 143/79/66


MADELEY

Newcastle-under-Lyme council, Staffordshire; caused by the death of Billy Welsh who had been elected as Labour in 2014 but had left the party. He had served since 2010 and was originally elected as a Liberal Democrat.

Further south on the M6 and the West Coast Main Line we come to a ward where many pass through but few stop. Madeley lies five miles west of Newcastle-under-Lyme on the road to Whitchurch and the railway line; although there has not been a station here for many years, the legacy of the station can still be seen in the fact that Madeley has Crewe postcodes (CW3). The ward also includes the villages of Little Madeley and Madeley Heath, lying to the east along the M6 motorway which bypasses the Potteries conurbation here, making a 120-degree turn from west to north-east. Famous residents in the ward include Gordon Banks and Lemmy from Motörhead.

At first sight Madeley’s demographics look fairly prosperous but this ward has a coalmining history: Madeley and Leycett once had collieries and Silverdale Colliery, a couple of miles to the east, didn’t close until 1998. That created a safe Labour ward in 2002, but since then the ward has some bizarre results even by the bizarre standards of Newcastle-under-Lyme. The Conservatives gained the two Labour seats in 2007 and at a 2008 by-election, at which Billy Welsh was the defending Labour candidate.

The weirdness really started in earnest in 2010 when the Tories lost a seat to Billy Welsh, who this time was standing as a Liberal Democrat.  The other Tory seat went back to Labour in 2011, but the Labour councillor died shortly afterwards and the by-election in February 2012 was won by the Lib Dem candidate Simon White to give the Lib Dems a full slate. That didn’t last long due to defections; Welsh was re-elected in 2014 with the Labour nomination and without Lib Dem opposition, while White was re-elected in 2015 as an independent candidate with 47% of the vote, to 27% for the Conservatives and 19% for Labour. As stated, Welsh had fallen out with Labour since his re-election and was sitting on the council as an independent at the time of his death. At county level this ward is part of the Newcastle Rural division which is safely Conservative.

Confused? You will be. Labour want their seat back and have selected Stephen French. French’s biggest challenge may well come from Gary White, a hotel owner, vice-chairman of Madeley parish council and partner of the remaining ward councillor Simon White; Gary performed poorly at a by-election in Silverdale in August, but this ward is his home turf. Another Madeley parish councillor standing is David Whitmore, who is the Conservative candidate. Completing the ballot paper is Peter Andras for the Lib Dems, who gives an address on the University of Keele campus.

Parliamentary constituency: Stone
Staffordshire county council division: Newcastle Rural

May 2015 result Ind 1115 C 636 Lab 455 LD 87 Grn 74
May 2014 result Lab 551 UKIP 310 C 286 Grn 97
Feb 2012 by-election LD 617 Lab 342 C 294 UKIP 41
May 2011 result Lab 483 C 445 LD 366 UKIP 113
May 2010 result LD 885 C 754 Lab 549 UKIP 146
May 2008 by-election C 485 Lab 393 LD 364 UKIP 109
May 2007 result C 502 LD 410 Lab 410 UKIP 84
May 2006 result Lab 433 C 404 LD 358 UKIP 85
May 2003 result Lab 444 LD 351 C 216
May 2002 result Lab 758/537 C 385/328 LD 369


HORSEHAY AND LIGHTMOOR

Telford and Wrekin council, Shropshire; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Clive Mollett at the age of 53. He had served since winning a by-election in 2008.

Staying in the West Midlands, we come to the new town of Telford, although parts of it aren’t all that new at all. The village of Horsehay, on the eastern slopes of the Wrekin, goes back to the 1750s when Abraham Darby II built a blast furnace here. The location was good; Horsehay is within walking distance of Coalbrookdale, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, and nearby mines at Dawley provided coal with which to smelt the iron. Horsehay Works, which manufactured bridges and latterly some of Europe’s largest cranes, was the area’s major employer for more than two centuries until it closed down in 1983, by which point other manufacturing in Telford new town was able to take up the slack; Horsehay and Lightmoor now has a socially mixed population with high employment levels. The engineering heritage and tourism are important to the area, with Horsehay’s railway now operated as a preserved line by the Telford Steam Railway. Horsehay has one of England’s more unusual pub names:

This is reflected at the ballot box. Horsehay and Lightmoor is a Conservative-inclined ward; the party won 52.5-48.5 in a straight fight with Labour in 2003, and only relaxed their grip in 2007 when one of the two seats went to an independent candidate, a loss which was recovered in a by-election in March 2008. In 2015 the Tory slate polled 43% to 24% for Labour and 18% for UKIP.

Defending for the Tories is Robert Cadman, who has a rather demanding job as communications officer for the Telford MP and controversy magnet Lucy Allan. The Labour candidate is Rajash Mehta; the only candidate to live within the ward, he is a parish councillor some distance away in Ketley. Completing a raher shorter ballot paper than last year is UKIP’s Denis Allen, a former Conservative councillor in North Shropshire and later Telford and Wrekin (2000-11) and Referendum Party candidate for North Shropshire in the 1997 general election; he sits on Wellington (Shropshire) town council and was Mayor of Wellington in 2007-08.

Parliamentary constituency: Telford

May 2015 result C 1280/950 Lab 722/661 UKIP 534/498 LD 221 Grn 193 Libertarian 45
May 2011 result C 517/494 Lab 485/444 Telford and Wrekin Peoples Association 172/88
March 2008 by-election C 358 Lab 172 Telford and Wrekin Peoples Association 145 Ind 110
May 2007 result Ind 479 C 454/380 Lab 238/195
May 2003 result C 407/404 Lab 368/353


MALDON WEST

Maldon council, Essex; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Charles Mackenzie at the age of 52. Described as a “happy-go-lucky” councillor, Mackenzie had only returned to Maldon council in 2015 after losing his seat in the 2011 election; also a Maldon town councillor, he had been deputy mayor of Maldon town council in 2007 and helped launch the town council’s website.

Moving to the first of our two by-elections in the South of England this week, we come to Maldon. Birthplace of Psylocke and Captain Britain in the Marvel Comics universe, Maldon is one of Essex’ oldest towns, first attested in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for AD 913. The town is located at the head of the Blackwater estuary and its major industry is sea salt; in more modern times Tesco opened their first self-service supermarket here in the 1950s. While Maldon’s Captain Britain may be fictional, Maldon’s Captain England is most certainly not; Alistair Cook, the England cricket captain, was brought up in the area and played his formative cricket for Maldon CC.

Maldon’s age and slightly isolated location have made the town a constituency name of long standing (even when those constituencies had larger towns in them), and it anchors one of the UK’s smallest local government districts. Maldon West ward is slightly misnamed, covering the south-west corner of the town; owner-occupation and part-time working rates are high.

At the local level the ward is a Tory versus independent challenge, with independent candidate Mark Heard gaining Mackenzie’s seat in 2011 and being re-elected in 2015 with a large personal vote; he beat the Tory slate 51-30. The Tories do better at county level, where the Maldon county division is safe for them.

Defending for the Conservatives is Martin Harvey. Maldon town councillor Flo Shaughnessy is seeking to join Heard as an independent councillor for the ward. Also standing are regular Green Party candidate Janet Carden, Andrew Francis of UKIP, Richard Perry whose ballot paper description is “Fighting Unsustainable Housing Because We Care” but is in fact the BNP nominee, and Labour’s John Sweeney.

Parliamentary constituency: Maldon
Essex county council division: Maldon

May 2015 result Ind 1303 C 767/692 Grn 498
May 2011 result Ind 573/397 C 565/460 Grn 185 LD 154/129
May 2007 result 2 C unopposed
Nov 2005 by-election C 212 Maldon and District Independent Democratic Alliance 107 Lab 94
May 2003 result C 521/435 Lab 309 Grn 254


TRENCH

Tonbridge and Malling council, Kent; caused by the death of Conservative councillor Jean Atkinson who had served since 2007.

We finish this week in Tonbridge, a Kent town on the River Medway. Tonbridge was an old mediaeval town at a Medway crossing point, fortified by the Normans and still known for the high number of 15th-century buildings in the old town; in more recent times it has been known for the Securitas depot robbery of 2006, Britain’s largest cash theft with over £53 million taken, around half of which has never been recovered. The town is a major railway junction and had a major plastic mouldings industry, some of which is still in operation today. Tonbridge town forms seven wards of Tonbridge and Malling district and Trench ward’s demographics stick out from the rest of the town like a sore thumb; located in the north of the town to the west of the A227 Shipbourne Road, this is Tonbridge’s council estate ward and (on the 2003-2015 boundaries) 48% of the households are socially rented, a figure just outside the top 100 wards in England and Wales. The ward was redrawn for the 2015 election with minor changes.

In most towns a ward with this demographic would vote Labour, but Labour are poorly organised in Tonbridge: they lost Trench ward to the Conservatives in 2007 and there is no indication that it will be back in the Labour fold any time soon. In 2015 Trench ward voted 44% for the Tory slate, 20% for Labour and 18% for UKIP. The town as a whole forms a two-seat division on Kent county council which is just as safe Conservative.

Defending for the Tories is Georgina Thomas, a market trader who also runs a business importing onesies. The Labour candidate is Fred Long, who is retired after six years in the RAF followed by 26 years in the civil service, where he was a Union activist. Completing the ballot paper is UKIP’s David Allen, a hypnotherapist.

Parliamentary constituency: Tonbridge and Malling
Kent county council division: Tonbridge

May 2015 result C 1111/1009 Lab 497/451 UKIP 468 Grn 240 LD 222