It's a bumper day of local Council by-elections tomorrow with no less than eight seats up for grabs across Britain. My workload is eased slightly as one is in Scotland, and will therefore be covered by Kristofer Keane in a post later today, whilst two by-elections in Hampshire account for three safe seats.
The main event tomorrow is in Camden where the Greens will be aiming to gain a seat from Labour in what is on paper a four way marginal. South of the Thames the Liberal Democrats will have a tough time holding onto a ward in Kingston against the Conservatives. However, in Gedling a Lib Dem gain from Labour is a possibility and the other vacancy to be filled tomorrow is a safe Labour ward in Wolverhampton.
I'll start in Camden where there is a closely fought campaign for the Highgate ward. The vacancy arose following the resignation of Labour Councillor Michael Nicolaides, due to personal reasons. The local newspaper indicates a combination of work commitments and plans to move out of the Camden with his new wife resulted in Nicolaides decision to stand down.
Labour are going to have a tough time holding on to this seat as the General Election turnout played a big role in them taking two of the wards three seats in 2010. The Greens won two in 2006 and they completed the set two years later when the Conservative Councillor resigned.
That resulting by-election is a handy reference point, with the Greens winning it with roughly a third of the vote. Labour beat the Conservatives to second by just five votes around the 26.5% mark. By the sounds of it all three are pushing for victory in this one, with the Greens even calling on reinforcements from Brighton. Interestingly, the Green candidate was a member of the Liberal Democrats up until the eve of his selection, which unsurprisingly cause a stir.
A key factor will be the significant Liberal Democrat vote in the ward. They polled around 20% in this ward in 2010, which is likely to drop in this by-election. If the bulk of disillusioned/squeezed Lib Dem voters swing behind one party then whoever that may be will enjoy a huge advantage.
Labour currently control Camden but if they lose this seat their majority will be reduced to just four. They next full Council elections are due to take place in 2014.
Camden London Borough Council
Alexis Rowell (Grn)
Sally Gimson (Lab)
Martin Hay (LD)
Antony Denyer (Con)
*based on highest vote.
In the other by-election taking place in London tomorrow the Liberal Democrats are defending Surbiton Hill in The Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames. The by-election is taking place following the resignation of Cllr. Umesh Parekh, whose new employer Friends of the Earth are not keen on their staff to holding Council seats.
Parekh and his running mates gained all three seats in this ward from the Conservatives in 2010 but Liberal Democrats do not have a large majority to defend. The Tories require a swing of around 3% to take a seat back in Surbiton Hill and given the drop in support for the Lib Dems since the General Election a gain is certainly on the cards.
There has been some controversy during the campaign with the Tories instructing a solicitor to send a letter to the Lib Dem campaign demanding they retract remarks made in one of their leaflets. The fact that if the Conservatives gain this seat tomorrow they will cut the Liberal Democrats' majority in Kingston to just four is probably fuelling this bad blood. The next full Council elections are due to take place in 2014.
Royal Borough Kingston-upon-Thames
John Ayles (LD)
Nick Kilby (Con)
Katie Hill (Lab)
Chris Walker (Grn)
Paul Pickhaver (CPA*)
James Riding (Ind)
*Christian People's Alliance
Bizarrely the Liberal Democrats could end up losing a seat to the Conservatives (in Kingston) but gaining one from Labour in Gedling on the same night. The vacancy in the Phoenix ward has arisen following the resignation of Cllr. Ian Howarth, who is heading off to Mexico to teach.
In May Labour gained both seats in this ward from the Liberal Democrats when the latter endured a terrible night of local election results. However, one of their candidates only missed out by four votes and as their national polling seems to be recovering the must fancy their chance of taking this back. The unlucky Lib Dem earlier in the year was their incumbent Councillor Andrew Ellwood and he's standing in this by-election.
Labour enjoy a comfortable majority in Gedling and the next full Council elections are due to take place in this Nottinghamshire Borough in 2015.
Allan Leadbeater (Lab)
Andrew Ellwood (LD)
James Faulconbridge (Con)
Lee Waters (UKIP)
Labour will find it a lot easier to hold the other Midlands seat set to be filled this week. The by-election in Graiseley, Wolverhampton MBC is taking place following the death of Labour Councillor Dr. Mohan Passi. Labour still enjoyed a comfortable win here in 2008, which was a difficult year for them nationally and in 2011 they secured almost 65% of the vote in an easy victory.
An interesting aspect of this by-election is that the Independent candidate from the last couple of election has been selected by the Conservatives for this contest. Given the combined Tory/Independent vote in May wasn't even half that of the winning Labour candidate this is unlikely to effect the outcome.
Labour have a comfortable majority on the Council with the next partial Council elections due to take place next May.
Jacqueline Sweetman (Lab)
John Mellor (Con)
Eileen Birch (LD)
Don Cooper (UKIP)
Finally, there are three seats in East Hampshire to be filled tomorrow. All the vacancies were caused by the single event of Conservative Councillors Sam & Anna James resigning from their Council duties. I haven't been able to find a source for the exact reason, however as Sam has subsequently passed away it isn't difficult to fill the gaps.
The couple both held seats in the Bramshott & Liphook ward on East Hampshire District Council whilst Sam also represented the Headley division on the County Council. The area is solidly Conservative and they shouldn't have any trouble holding these seats.
Naturally, the Conservatives also have large majorities on both the County and the District Council. The next County Council elections are scheduled for 2013 whilst full elections for the East Hampshire District Council aren't due to take place until 2015.
Bramshott & Liphook (East Hampshire)
Lynn Ashton (Con)
Ferris Cowper (Con)
Bill Mouland (Con)
Maureen Comber (LD)
Michael Croucher (LD)
John Tough (Lab)
Eve Hope (LD)
Neville Taylor (Grn)
Frank Jones (Lab)
Don Jerrard (Justice)
John Tough (Lab)
Neville Taylor (Grn)