Here are our guides to the wards up for election:
- Waltham Abbey, contested by Pat Richardson
- Loughton Central, contested by Rod Law
- Ongar and Rural, contested by Peter Turpin
- Chigwell and Loughton Broadway, contested by Eddy Butler
According to reports from canvassers from different parties, the BNP vote is negligible in Epping, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Ongar and the smaller villages; we don't have any reports on North Weald. Where the situation is less certain is in Loughton Broadway and Waltham Abbey. If the BNP gets out its supporters in these wards, it stands a good chance of coming second and, in the case of Waltham Abbey, a close second. As Loughton Broadway is lumped together with solid Conservative Chigwell, the vote there will not change the outcome, which is widely believed to be in the favour of the Tory incumbent.
There are number of factors that will determine the outcome. The 'Laing Factor', with the expenses furore surrounding local MP Eleanor Laing likely to keep Conservatives at home or prompt them to vote for other parties. The competition for these votes will come from the BNP, the Liberal Democrats and, in the case of Loughton South and Buckhurst Hill, the UK Independence Party. At the same time, it is almost inevitable that the Labour vote will fall if not collapse. This could benefit the Liberal Democrats, the BNP and the Greens. Loughton Central is the oddity in the district, being represented by the Loughton Residents Association with the main challenger being a popular LRA defector to the Conservatives. Despite its relatively strong (yet recently declining) vote in two of the district wards that comprise Loughton Central (Alderton and Fairmead), the BNP will find it hard to break into second place amid the competition between the two main competitors.
However, the Liberal Democrats and the BNP are not actively competing for the same votes. Both parties are concentrating their resources in different wards. The Liberals are seeking to win back Loughton South/Buckhurst Hill and Epping/Theydon Bois, while the BNP has focused its efforts on Waltham Abbey, where it has secured a 20-30% vote share in recent years, and keeping up the BNP vote in the three Debden wards - Broadway, Alderton and Fairmead, where it has secured 30-40% of the vote in the past. Neither party wants to stretch their resources too thinly. Consequently, the BNP could pick up the votes of disillusioned voters that could have been swayed to vote Liberal Democrats if they had actively and fully campaigned for these wards.
While the odds are still stacked against the BNP winning the county seat, the by-election for the Waltham Abbey Honey Lane district council seat could provide the BNP with a surprise win and recover the ground it lost in the 2008 elections when its council group lost two of its six councillors. A win in this seat would also mark the BNP's advance outside its Debden stronghold and the creation of a new power base in the district. The by-election is marked by uncertainties and conflicting reports, which make it too close to call. A lot will depend on turn-out.