There are four local council by-elections taking place tomorrow, all in marginal wards in urban England.
Aldborough, Redbridge LBC; caused by the resignation of Labour Councillor Mike Figg, allegedly because he couldn't keep up with the workload.
One of the few wards in Greater London that contains any kind of rural area, this is the largest ward in Redbridge, running along the north side of the A12 Eastern Avenue up to the Barking/Dagenham border, and including the Fairlop Waters Country Park. The population of the ward is almost entirely squeezed into the south-west corner in the Aldborough Hatch area and the eastern part of Barkingside. It is served by Newbury Park and Barkingside underground stations on the Hainault Loop of the Central Line.
The ward's census areas are mostly in the middle or slightly below the middle of the deprivation indices; an interesting indicator from the 2001 census is a high Jewish population (12.6%).
In 2010 this was a split ward with Labour gaining one seat from the Conservatives who held the other two. At the 2008 GLA elections the Conservatives led Labour 38.5%-31.9% in the list vote and Boris led Ken by 45.3%-37.6%. With this ward being in the traditionally marginal constituency of Ilford North, and the Coalition currently running the hung Redbridge council, this by-election could be an interesting pointer. Candidates for the by-election are the three main parties plus the Greens, the BNP and UKIP.
Redbridge London Borough Council
Melvyn Marks (Con)
Debbie Thiara (Lab)
Christopher Greaves (LD)
Clive Durdle (Grn)
Daniel Warville (BNP)
Paul Wiffen (UKIP)
St Margaret's, Ipswich BC; caused by the resignation of Conservative Councillor Sarah Stokes, for personal reasons.
This ward covers the north of the town, running from the edge of the town centre around Christchurch Park to the northern edge of the town. Mostly it is a well-off area with the exception of the area around Christchurch Park which is much more working-class.
The ward consistently voted Lib Dem from 2002 to 2010 but was normally marginal, and there were some very close battles with the Conservatives, particularly in 2007 (majority 43) and 2008 (majority 45). After years of trying, the Conservatives finally made a gain in May by just 60 votes, but the Conservative councillor has now resigned after just four months in office. The Lib Dems will be looking to gain the seat back.
St Margaret's (Ipswich)
Stephen Ion (Con)
Cathy French (LD)
Glen Chisholm (Lab)
St Mary's, Islington LBC; caused by the disqualification of a dissident Labour councillor who failed to attend any meetings of the council or its committees in six months.
The heart of Islington, this ward stretches north along the A1 Upper Street from the Angel to the Highbury Corner roundabout and then north-west along the southern edge of the Holloway Road. It is served by Highbury and Islington station, a major interchange for the North London Line, the newly-extended East London Line, the Victoria Line and the Moorgate branch of the mainline rail network; the Moorgate branch's Essex Road station is also in the ward.
Islington has a trendy reputation (Boris Johnson lives in the ward St Peter's ward, where there was recently a by-election), but this is not yet reflected in the census figures; four of the ward's seven census areas are in the 20% most deprived in England, and the other three aren't much better off.
This ward elected three Lib Dem councillors when it was created in 2002, but one of the Lib Dem councillors defected to Labour in 2005 (the one whose disqualification caused this by-election). She held her seat in her new colours in 2006 and Labour gained a second seat in the ward in 2010, when the Lib Dems generally performed poorly in a parliamentary constituency they were targeting. In 2008 Ken beat Boris here by 42.7%-37.0%. It will be interesting to see whether any Labour gain from not being in national government any longer is offset by them now running Islington council. Candidates for the by-election are the three main parties plus the Greens and the BNP.
St Mary's (Islington)
Gary Poole (Lab)
Emily Fieran-Reed (LD)
Oriel Hutchinson (Con)
Caroline Russell (Grn)
Walter Barfoot (BNP)
Sparkbrook, Birmingham MBC; caused by the resignation of high-profile Respect Councillor and Party Leader Salma Yaqoob, due to ill-health.
Where do I start when describing Sparkbrook? It's an extremely depressed inner-city ward in southern Birmingham, including the Sparkbrook and Balsall Heath areas just outside the middle ring road. It is one of the largest wards in England by electorate, with 19,661 people eligible to vote in May's election. It has about twenty census areas, every single one of which is in the most deprived 20% in England. It is the home of the Balti Triangle, Birmingham's equivalent of Manchester's Curry Mile or London's Brick Lane. But there's one thing above all that defines its politics: the 59% of the population who (on slightly different boundaries) gave their religion in the 2001 census as Muslim.
That fact has made Sparkbrook the only stronghold of the Respect party outside London, starting in 2006 when Yaqoob gained a seat from Labour on an enormous swing from the Lib Dems, who topped the poll here in 2004 and won two out of three seats. Respect gained the two Lib Dem seats in 2007 and 2008 and held a by-election in September 2009 after one of their councillors went bankrupt.
Yaqoob was re-elected in 2010, polling more than 5,000 votes, and on the same day came a creditable second in the general election in Birmingham Hall Green, polling 25.1% to 32.9% for Labour; she could have cause to curse the boundary changes which abolished the much more strongly Muslim seat of Birmingham Sparkbrook & Small Heath. However, a change came in May when Labour gained a seat. Labour now have a chance to gain a second seat, and have selected a high-profile candidate in the shape of Victoria Quinn, partner of the veteran Labour group leader Sir Albert Bore, while Respect have selected their former councillor who lost his seat in May. With the ward's large Kashmiri population, Pakistan-style biraderi politics could be crucial in deciding the result.
Birmingham City Council
Victoria Quinn (Lab)
Mohammed Ishtiaq (Res)
Adil Rashid (LD)
Sahar Rezazadeh (Con)
Peter Tinsley (Grn)
N/C (Comm. Ind. Party)