This week saw nine by-elections in principal authorities – Argyll & Bute, Cornwall, East Dorset, Harrogate, two in Herefordshire, Kings Lynn and West Norfolk, Oxford and Redditch.
In Harrogate Clare Skardon held Hookstone ward for the Liberal Democrats with 51.7% of the vote; an increase of 9.1%. Cllr Skardon successfully managed to squeeze all her opponents’ share of the vote: the Conservatives acquired 32.1% of the votes (-1.8%), UKIP were third with 12% (-4.3%) and Labour came last with 4.1% (-3%). Cllr Skardon puts her victory down to a strong local team with a good record of action in the local area. Residents had benefited from years of service from longstanding Cllr Reg Marsh and were keen to keep a full Liberal Democrat team serving the area. The Labour vote was encouraged to vote strategically and UKIP’s campaign failed to gain traction despite their increased attention which included canvassing for the first time. The Conservatives pumped a lot of resources into their campaign but a visible Liberal Democrat poster campaign and leaflets highlight a wasteful plan to spend £9 million on new Council offices helped to depress the Tory vote. The local Lib Dem team also focused on getting literature out before postal votes were sent out to maximise their local support.
A by-election was held in Colehill East ward (East Dorset DC) after the death of Lib Dem Councillor Don Wallace who died in May. Cllr Wallace served for 41 years on the district council including as Chairman between 1995-6. He died in May aged 95. Barry Roberts retained the seat for the Liberal Democrats with 59.3% of the vote (+8.7%). The Conservatives were runners up with 26% (-5.6%) and UKIP came third with 14.7% (-6.4%).
John Ault missed out by just one vote from taking a seat from UKIP in Mabe, Perranarworthal and St Gluvias (Cornwall UA). The Conservative victor won 406 votes to John’s 405. The intensive campaign run by the local Liberal Democrats easily out delivered their opponents’ campaigns and involved over 10 leaflets and knocking on every door three times. The 10-mile long rural ward is true blue territory and includes three villages and the University campus at Penryn. John, who works at the University, actively engaged students in his campaign: his nomination papers were signed by ten students and 20 year old Tom Fidler was his agent (as well as being one of the students he teaches!). A very localised campaign focused around the loss of a bus service and cuts to the mobile Library helped boost the Lib Dem vote by 9.5%. Running a positive campaign focused on local issues stood in stark contrast to UKIP who ran anti-EU stories. As a result the UKIP fell from first to third and received 21% (-7%). Labour and Mebyon Kernow also stood coming fourth and fifth respectively.
For all the detailed results see the ALDC elections
* ALDC is the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners