It’s By-Election Fever

Warm congratulations to Jack O’Dwyer-Henry, sometime Labour and then Eco-Socialist councillor for the University and Scotforth Rural Ward of Lancaster City Council, on being appointed Strategy and Communications Officer for the Green Party of Northern Ireland. His departure means that, on Thursday 11 November 2021 (Week 5), literally as subtext 197 finally rolls off the presses, it’s campus by-election fever! Kind of.

Regular subtext readers will know that University and Scotforth Rural Ward by-elections are much enjoyed by electoral observers. The 8 December 2016 by-election, discussed in subtext 156, saw Nathan Burns (Labour) elected with an impressively small tally of 98 votes, on a 7.12 per cent turnout. A letter from then-Cllr O’Dwyer-Henry in subtext 194 noted that 98 votes could well be a record breaker for elections to principal authorities in the UK, ‘as I doubt any other candidate has ever been elected with fewer votes’.

This autumn’s contest has the added frisson of being possibly the last ever election in University and Scotforth Rural Ward. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England has proposed, in its draft recommendations for new city wards, to abolish University and Scotforth Rural, moving the University part into Scotforth East Ward and the Scotforth Rural part into Ellel Ward. The Commission’s justification is that Scotforth Parish Council really, really doesn’t like being in the same ward as the campus, and wrote to the Commission to say so. There were no submissions from either Lancaster University or Lancaster University Students’ Union. Hence, it seems, thanks arguably to a single submission on behalf of the 250 or so residents of Bailrigg, Burrow Heights, Hazelrigg and Langthwaite, the distinctly different representation currently afforded to the 2,500 or so residents on campus is likely to end in May 2023. Read the Commission’s draft report at:

Comments on the draft recommendations are currently sought from local residents and organisations, with the deadline being 23 November 2021. Submissions should be made via the LGBCE website.

There are four candidates (Con, Green, Lab, Lib Dem) and plenty of visible campaigning (from the Greens and Labour, anyway). If our campus community truly values having distinct city council representation then, well, presumably it’ll turn out in significant numbers, whereas if the election winner once again ends up being elected with a two-digit mandate then, well, defending University and Scotforth Rural from obliteration is going to be a lot more challenging.

Have the campus authorities done their best to encourage civic participation? Let’s give three cheers to the students’ union for plastering campus notice boards with posters advertising the election and assuring residents that they should be able to vote. Let’s offer no cheers to the college accommodation officers who recently sent emails to students displaying political posters, saying that ‘displaying of posters, flags etc in your accommodation that makes it visible from the outside of your accommodation is not permitted’ and that anything on display currently should be removed immediately. Any subtext readers faced with such a letter are encouraged to send a concise reply that includes terms like ‘quiet enjoyment’ and ‘running jump’.

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