Monday, 11 July 2016

By-election Previews: 14 July 2016

Ten local by-elections this week.  Six covered over on the English Elections blog, two on the Welsh Elections blog, and two below.

Cornwall council
Caused respectively by the resignations of UKIP councillor Mark Hicks and independent councillor John Lugg.  Hicks, who had served since 2013, has resigned for personal reasons.  Lugg, who started his local government career over forty years ago and was first elected to the former North Corwall district council in 1979, is suffering from poor health.

Delabole Slate Yard, St Teath
There are two Cornish by-elections this week.  One comes in the village of St Columb Minor, once the major settlement in its area but now an eastern suburb of the seaside resort of Newquay; it is the major part of Newquay Treviglas division, whose name refers to Treviglas College, a secondary school and sixth-form college located just outside the village.

Further up the north coast is St Teath and St Breward division, which runs from the summit of Cornwall's highest point, Brown Willy, down to the sea, surrounding the town of Camelford on three sides.  The Brown Willy moorland is known for prehistoric remains and also for granite and china clay quarrying, while the divison's largest centre of population is the slate-quarrying village of Delabole, once the location of the world's deepest man-made pit and since 1991 home to the UK's first commercial onshore windfarm; Delabole's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and high altitude (around 800 feet) made it a perfect site for a windfarm.

Newquay Treviglas was created for the inaugural 2009 Cornwall council election and was won in its first contest by independent candidate Harry Heywood, who had been Restormel district councillor for the Rialton ward which covered the area before 2007.  Heywood stood down in 2013 and his seat went to UKIP on a low share of the vote, 30% to 27% for the Conservatives, 25% for the Lib Dems and 18% for Labour.

St Teath and St Breward is another 2009 creation, surviving unchanged in the 2013 boundary review except for its name - the 2009 division with the same boundaries was simply called St Teath.  Before 2009 most of this area was in the Camelot ward of North Cornwall council, which Lugg represented as an independent with large vote shares; St Breward was in a ward with Blisland to the south which was Tory unopposed in 2003 but a Lib Dem gain in 2007.  Lugg's popularity has carried over to the unitary Cornwall council, and at his last re-election in 2013 he beat the Tories 65-35 in a straight fight.

So the previous form in both divisions doesn't really tell us all that much, although it says something of the disarray that Cornwall UKIP find themselves in that they have not found a candidate to defend Newquay Treviglas.  From winning six seats in 2013, this will be UKIP's fourth by-election loss in Cornwall since then and they have another seat to defend later this year.  With Newquay Treviglas up for grabs, the Tories have selected a strong candidate in Carl Leadbetter, the Mayor of Newquay who represents the ward on Newquay town council; he is a former hotelier and had served in the RAF.  The Lib Dem candidate is Paul Summers, a former town councillor who has recently retired after 36 years as a teacher.  Julian Grover is the Labour candidate.  Completing the ballot paper is George Edwards, a former Mayor of Newquay and former Restormel councillor for the town, who lost his seat on Cornwall council in 2013 - in those previous elections he was a Lib Dem, but he is now standing as an independent.

In St Teath no fewer than three independents have come forward to succeed Lugg.  Taking them alphabetically, Eddie Jones is a former chairman of St Teath parish council; William Kitto gives an address in St Teath; and Susan Theobald is a former clerk to St Teath parish council.  On the party political side of a crowded ballot paper, the Conservative candidate is Jeremy Stanford-Davis of St Teath; the Lib Dems' Dominic Fairman is a farmer who has diversified into camping and yurts; and the Labour candidate David Garrigan has resorted to crowdfunding websites to finance his campaign.

Newquay Treviglas
Parliamentary constituency: St Austell and Newquay

May 2013 result UKIP 266 C 237 LD 218 Lab 156

St Teath and St Breward
Parliamentary constituency: North Cornwall

May 2013 result Ind 628 LD 388 C 204
June 2009 result (St Teath) Ind 957 C 512

Thursday, 14 April 2016

By-election Previews: 14 April 2016

Three by-elections this week, all in the South West.  One covered over on the English Elections blog, and the other two below:

Cornwall council
Caused respectively by the death of Bernie Ellis and the resignation of Scott Mann, both of whom were Conservative councillors.  Ellis, who has died at the age of 72, travelled the world as a surveyor in the mining industry before returning to his native Cornwall where he became a farmer; he had been in local government since 2003, originally on the former Caradon district council.  Mann, a former postman, has gone on to greater things having been elected last year as the new MP for North Cornwall; his local government career started in 2007 on the former North Cornwall district council.

We are in the final week of local by-elections before the May elections at which the entire United Kingdom will go to the polls for the first of three occasions in this Parliament: whether it's for the Mayor and Assembly in London, the Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales, the Scottish Parliament, the Assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland, or one of the 124 local councils which are holding ordinary elections this year.  Cornwall is not among that number, which perhaps explains why two of its wards are going to the polls just three weeks before the main event.

Taking the two by-elections in alphabetical order, we start in Menheniot, a deeply rural division in south-eastern Cornwall which wraps around the town of Liskeard on three sides.  "Menenyut" is the largest parish within the ward, located south-east of Liskeard and known for its fourteenth-century church; the village also has its own station on the Cornish main line with occasional request stops.  To south of Liskeard can be found St Keyne, home to a museum of fairground organs and one of the most wonderfully-named railway stations on the network, "St Keyne Wishing Well Halt" on the Looe Valley line.  Also within the ward can be found the villages of St Pinnock, Trewiland and Quethiock.

Menheniot ward was created for the first unitary Cornwall council election in 2009; in the days of Caradon district council most of the area was within Dobwalls and District ward, with parts covered by Menheniot and St Ive, and St Germans wards; and at county level it was split between Liskeard, and Menheniot and St Germans county divisions.  Before 2009 Ellis was the only Tory councillor from the area with all the other district and all the county councillors being Lib Dems, so Ellis did well to win the new ward easily in 2009.  2013 was a closer affair, with Ellis eventually winning with 38% of the vote to 31% for UKIP and 24% for the Lib Dems.

Moving north-west we come to Wadebridge, located at the lowest crossing-point of the River Camel.  Once a port on the Camel estuary, Wadebridge is now a thriving market town which is a major centre for the local area and was formerly the home of North Cornwall district council.  Wadebridge West is an urban ward covering the part of the town to the west of the River Allen.

Wadebridge town as a whole elected three independents in 2003 to North Cornwall council, but two of them lost their seats in 2007 to Scott Mann and the Lib Dem candidate Jeremy Rowe.  (The remaining independent, Collin Brewer, had a good personal vote at the time but was later forced to resign from the council over controversial comments about disability.)  Mann was easily elected in the new Wadebridge West in 2009 and in 2013 increased his majority over the Lib Dems to 66-24.

Defending for the Tories in Wadebridge West is Sally Dunn, a caseworker for Scott Mann.  The Lib Dem candidate is Karen McHugh, an NHS radiographer; also standing are the local Chamber of Commerce chairman Adrian Jones for Labour, town councillor Amanda Pennington for the Green Party and independent candidate Helen Hyland.

In Menheniot the defending Tory candidate is Phil Seeva, a PR man who was Mayor of Liskeard in 2014-15.  The UKIP candidate is Duncan Odgers, an electrical engineer who fought the Bristol suburban seat of Kingswood (where he works) in last year's general election but commutes there from his home in Looe.  The Lib Dem candidate Charles Boney also has a Bristol connection, having been a Bristol city councillor in the 1980s and 1990s (originally elected as Labour) and fought Bristol West twice in general elections for the Lib Dems; he now runs a vineyard in St Keyne and chairs the South East Cornwall branch of the Lib Dems.  Labour's Martin Menear and the Greens' Richard Sedgley complete the ballot paper.

Parliamentary constituency: South East Cornwall

May 2013 result C 549 UKIP 450 LD 352 Grn 93
June 2009 result C 746 LD 433 UKIP 389

Wadebridge West
Parliamentary constituency: North Cornwall

May 2013 result C 830 LD 308 Lab 129
June 2009 result C 761 LD 322 UKIP 188

Monday, 11 January 2016

By-election Preview: 14 January 2016

One by-election on 14th January 2016:

Cornwall council
Caused by the resignation of former Liberal Democrat councillor Alex Folkes.

Launceston Town Hall and Guildhall
As the name suggests, this is the central of the three divisions wholly or partly covering the town of Launceston.  The traditional gateway to Cornwall because of its location on the A30 road, Launceston is an ancient town with a well-preserved Norman castle, which was a stronghold for the Royalist cause in the Civil War.  Today, Launceston (like much of Cornwall) depends on tourism, although there is some industry here including the Natural Fibre Company's woollen mill and a bakery formerly owned by Duchy Originals, and the town is sufficiently important that the ONS recognises it as the centre of its own Travel to Work Area.

Launceston Central division covers the town centre (including the bridge over the River Kemsey and the preserved railway station) together with some rather disconnected residential areas on both sides of the Kemsey.  It was created for the first unitary Cornwall council election in 2009; boundary changes in 2013 saw the division expanded slightly at the expense of both Launceston North and Launceston South.  Before 2009 the town as a whole had two Lib Dem county councillors and returned two Independents and one Lib Dem to the former North Cornwall district council.

Alex Folkes' first electoral test was in 2002 when he sought election to Lewisham council in London, but he was first elected to Launceston Central at the first Cornwall council election in 2009.  It's fair to say that his career on the council was a car crash.  During his first term he was repeatedly taken to court by his own council for non-payment of council tax; not that that stopped him becoming the Cornwall cabinet member responsible for finance after the 2013 Cornwall council election, in which Folkes increased his majority over the Conservatives to 71-17 and the Lib Dem group took control of the council in coalition with independents.

In November 2014 Folkes suddenly resigned from the cabinet, and shortly afterwards it was revealed that he had been arrested in 2006 on suspicion of possessing child pornography (link).  The council revealed this by writing to every school and youth group in Launceston stating that Folkes was a risk to children, a message reiterated to the press by the council's then chief executive who called on Folkes to resign from the council.  Folkes resigned the Lib Dem whip and tried to defend himself, but readmission to the Lib Dem group was not forthcoming.  The final straw for Folkes came in October last year, when he was prosecuted by his ex-landlord for leaving his former flat in a squalid state; after that he decided to resign from the council, citing mental health issues.

It remains to be seen whether the many controversies surrounding Folkes have had any effect on the Lib Dem vote in Launceston, but the loss of the North Cornwall parliamentary seat in last year's general election will not have helped the Lib Dem cause here.  In a demonstration that when history repeats itself the second time is farcical, when I put the name of the defending Lib Dem candidate Gemma Massey into Google I got ten links to a porn star of that name; however, the Gemma Massey standing in this by-election is a 31-year-old businesswoman from Launceston who organises networking and training for local businesses.  Massey is up against 60-year-old Conservative candidate Val Bugden-Cawsey, an after-dinner speaker and former cook-housekeeper to Princess Anne who runs a monthly women's lunch club in Launceston.  Also on the ballot paper are John Allman of the Christian Peoples Alliance and Roger Creagh-Osborne of the Green Party.

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

May 2013 result LD 551 C 134 Lab 73