Thursday, 5 September 2013

By-Election Preview: 5 September 2013

With ten by-elections to cover this week, your columnist must apologise for not having sufficient time to cover all of these polls in the level of detail to which readers have become accustomed.  The other nine contests this week have been covered on the English Elections blog.

Cornwall Council; caused by the resignation of controversial Independent councillor Colin Brewer, for reasons which will be outlined below.

This urban/rural division covers the eastern half of the town of Wadebridge together with the parish of Egloshayle and part of St Kew parish (the villages of St Kew, St Kew Highway and Chapel Amble) to the north and east of Wadebridge.

Wadebridge East was won at the first unitary Cornwall council election in 2009 by Colin Brewer, long-serving independent district councillor for Wadebridge ward on the former North Cornwall district council and also long-serving county councillor for Wadebridge and St Minver division on the old Cornwall county council.  Judging by the election results in Wadebridge from the Noughties, he had a significant personal vote, and was elected in 2009 fairly comfortably with 44% of the vote, to 33% for the Conservatives and 23% for another independent.

Unfortunately Brewer heaped ignominy on himself in March 2013 for reasons which went viral on the internet after the comedian Adam Hills ranted about it on the Channel 4 disability rights and comedy programme The Last Leg (this video is not safe for work due to swearing):

Yes, he was the councillor who said that disabled children should be put down, and it prompted his resignation from Cornwall council.  With the scheduled May 2013 elections imminent no by-election was held to replace him, but there was enough time in between for Brewer to decide that, actually, he'd rather stand for election again and let the electorate decide.  The electors of Wadebridge East gave him just 25% of the vote, but that was enough to win on a freak vote split with all six candidates for the division polling between 11% and 25%.  Brewer beat the Lib Dem candidate by just four votes.

Having been restored to the council by his electors, Brewer promptly dug himself straight back into exactly the same hole by agreeing to do an interview with the Disability News Network.  It didn't end well, and Brewer found himself under investigation by the council's monitoring officer for further insensitive remarks in the same vein.  After being censured by the monitoring officer, who pretty much said he would have disqualified Brewer had he had the power to do so, Brewer resigned from Cornwall council for the second time in less than six months.

This time there will be a by-election to replace Brewer.  The new independent candidate is Tony Rush, the Mayor of Wadebridge.  Rush's predecessor as Mayor Steve Knightley, the Lib Dem candidate beaten by Brewer in May, tries his luck again, as do the UKIP candidate Rod Harrison, a former milkman and Methodist preacher, and Labour's Adrian Jones, a Wadebridge town councillor and chair of the local Chamber of Commerce, who was awarded an MBE for his work in New York City after 11th September 2001.  Completing the ballot paper is the Conservative candidate, Egloshayle resident Stephen Rushworth, a Cornwall cabinet member until losing his seat in Padstow in May. 

Parliamentary constituency: North Cornwall
ONS Travel to Work Area: Wadebridge

May 2013 result Ind 335 LD 331 UKIP 208 Lab 161 C 150 Ind 146

Rod Harrison (UKIP)
Adrian Jones (Lab)
Steve Knightley (LD)
Tony Rush (Ind)
Stephen Rushworth (C)

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