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

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