8 am update: “The Lib Dems are the only ones to have won on the night”

So said the BBC News website first thing this morning.

I’m become very used to writing “Oh my days, how awful” posts after local elections. This morning, the picture is much more positive.

We’ve ended the night, with two thirds of results in, on +41 councillors which compares to 31 for Labour and 3 for the Tories.

We’ve retained control in places like Cheltenham, Eastleigh and, after a few wobbles, Sutton.

We gained Richmond on Thames pretty handsomely. I was being told in the run-up to the election that it was on a knife edge. We ended up gaining 24 seats while the Tories lost 28.

There are some really heartbreaking results, though, where we didn’t gain. avenue ward in Hull kept its reputation as a bellwether. We gained 7 seats in Hull, not enough to snatch control from Labour, and so in Avenue we gained one seat and missed out on the third meaning that Elspeth McCobb didn’t get elected. In Cheadle, Claire Halliwell missed out by 2 votes.

Ed Davey has been doing the media round this morning. From BBC News:

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Sir Ed Davey tells the Today programme it has been a “great night” for the Liberal Democrats, who gained Richmond and won seats elsewhere. “We’ve been winning seats off Labour in the north, in Leave voting areas, and in the south off Tories in Remain areas,” he said. “It’s building a hugely important, great platform for future victories.” People were desperate for a voice, he said. Analyst Sir John Curtice had previously called the results “mildly encouraging” for the Lib Dems.

People would be surprised, I understand, if we didn’t take Kingston or retain the Watford Mayoralty. The wider London results will be more interesting than anticipated if Labour are not doing as well as they had thought.

It’s not the most spectacular night in our history, but it is better than we were expecting and, on current councillor gains figures, on course for our second best result in this particular set of elections.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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23 Comments

  • John Chandler 4th May '18 - 8:27am

    I expected a few overall gains, and certainly not the loss of 85 councillors as some pollsters were predicting. However, I definitely wasn’t expecting this. Excellent work everyone.

    Anecdotally, I was hearing a lot yesterday from (typically Labour-voting) friends and colleagues that they were looking at voting Lib Dem or Green, many for the first time. Seems like that was not just my own bubble.

  • Richard Underhill 4th May '18 - 10:07am

    Richmond on Thames have repeatedly demonstrated the effect of First Past the Post (and second past the post and third past the post) on the largest party.
    Well done. The BBC should be told that the colour is GOLD not Yellow.

  • John Marriott 4th May '18 - 11:02am

    No, Karen. Judging by the turnouts, the real winner, as usual when you don’t run local elections in tandem with a General Election, was voter apathy!

  • Matt (Bristol) 4th May '18 - 11:26am

    Nice, 4 years after watching the local election / Euro election results in horror and then joining the party, to hear some good news …

    Anyone getting addicted to this sort of thing should make contact with Bristol Lib Dems.

    We haven’t had elections this year, but have a significant by election coming up on May 24th in a tight ward we need to hold…

  • John Marriott 4th May '18 - 12:14pm

    Sorry, Paul. Of course, it’s CARON. My apologies to both of you. I’m afraid that, as I approach my 75th year, my brain cell count must be lower than I thought! Mind you, if I had a pound for every time people wrongly spelt my surname over the years I’d be quite a rich man by now!

    HOWEVER, I still stick to the point I made. When barely 40% of the electorate bothers to vote (if you are lucky) you have to ask yourself some serious questions about whether our democracy is functioning adequately. Or doesn’t that bother you?

  • Re: “the real winner, as usual when you don’t run local elections in tandem with a General Election, was voter apathy! John Marriott

    I misscanned this, having noted the favourable outcome for the LibDems, on reflection, it is a valid consideration: should we continue to run local elections in tandem with Westminster elections?

    Whilst turnover is obviously lower, it has meant that local campaigning and issues haven’t been pushed into the background by the national contest; a state of affairs that seems to improve the LibDem vote…

  • Charlotte Davies 4th May '18 - 1:09pm

    John Marriott

    I disagree. I think voter apathy probabaly helped us. A lot of those who couldn’t be bothered to vote would probably have voted either red or blue. The fact that they didn’t turn out meant that all the motivated pro-EU voters who wanted to #ABTV had a clearer playing field.

    I think we did well. Of course we’re still much smaller than Labour. But Labour’s arrogance could be their undoing and that won’t harm us at all.

  • paul barker 4th May '18 - 1:30pm

    Huge thanks to everyone who worked on these Elections, the results are a bit dissapointing, we made some progress but its very slow. At this rate we would need a decade to make a full recovery.
    On the sunny side, our National Poll ratings seem to have ticked up for the first time since The General Election.

  • John Marriott 4th May '18 - 1:32pm

    @Roland
    I’m not saying that local issues are an important determinant of success in local elections. After all, that’s basically how I was able to remain a councillor for thirty years. However, in many areas, it’s the national profile of the party that influences how most people vote, especially if, as I suspect, a lot of Lib Dem candidates were largely just a name on the ballot paper.

    The sad fact is that the majority of the electorate has little time for the emasculated form of local government successive governments have delivered over the years. Not until a future government has the guts to return to local councils some of the powers that have been taken away and not until councils are ready to support a reform of structure and finance will voter interest in their affairs reach the kind of levels achieved in some of our European neighbours.

  • John Marriott 4th May '18 - 1:34pm

    There should have been a second ‘not’ in line one!

  • I think this is particularly good news when you begin to think how these results could project into general election wins.

    We would “win” on this basis a large number of parliamentary seats. The South West London seats. Winchester. Eastleigh. Within 1% of Labour in Portsmouth South (with the Tories slumping to just 25% in the seat).

    This seems to be coupled to progress in northern areas against Labour. So very encouragingly not just in leafy “remain” areas but everywhere people want a sensible alternative to the Tories Of course local elections are not parliamentary elections. But our tendency to do less well in parliamentary elections will be offset by a strong chance that our opinion poll rating will now significantly improve.

  • John Nicholson 4th May '18 - 2:39pm

    It seems to me that there is always “voter apathy”; even General Elections only get turn-outs of around 75%. So, if we win in Richmond on a 51% turn-out, that is an acceptable result, in my opinion. After all, we lost hundreds of Councillors on similar or lower turn-outs in recent years. When we start winning back seats, why spoil it by questioning the validity of the result? As an activist in Richmond borough, married to one of the winning Councillors, I am delighted with the outcome here. And to see the bewilderment on the faces of local Tories, who weren’t expecting it, was an absolute delight. I had hoped others in this site would have shared that delight, but there is no accounting for taste (as my late father used to say)…

  • Independent analysis from Dr Michael Thrasher on Sky News: “You would have to say the Lib Dems have done well… The Lib Dems have a strong basis for saying they are back.”

  • South Cambridgeshire?!

    Wow, well done folks! It is great to have a surprise under the radar result when everyone else is focused on SW London.

  • paul barker 4th May '18 - 3:56pm

    Currently we are on 55 Gains with Labour on 58, a hopeful sign for next Year.

  • John Marriott 4th May '18 - 4:27pm

    @Charlotte Davies
    I never thought I would see a Lib Dem supporting voter apathy. After all, voter apathy is one of the reasons why the Tories and Labour have been hogging the show for so long. Are you really happy about winning by default?

    The percentage of votes cast makes interesting reading. It’s currently (4.20pm) running Tory and Labour 35% each, Lib Dems 16%, the rest 14%. What it is not delivering is Councillors. Bring on PR!

  • @John Marriott
    The vote share last night was interesting L35% (2350) C 35% (1332) LD 16% (536). For once we were close to the Tories in ‘first past the post’ (although we would have won 608 -almost doubling the wins!) possibly because of multimember wards. But Labour got 4 times the Councillors on not much more than twice our vote.
    Leeds has an interesting system. They are all 3 member wards with the top one getting elected for 4 years, 2nd for 2 years and 3rd for 1 year.

  • Charlotte Davies 14th May '18 - 3:12pm

    @John Marriott

    Well I’m not happy about apathy but that’s something that’s always with us, like “the poor”. We do what we can.

    And saying that apathy helped us isn’t the same as saying I “support” apathy. It’s just saying it helped us! I don’t really care how or why we win seats, council or otherwise. I just care that we do, and the numbers go up.

    These results were much better than I could’ve hoped. I’m still really pleased with them. A lot of us spent hours on Twitter slogging away at the #ABTV hashtag and while I have no way of knowing how much effect that actually had on people, I’d like to think at least a little. Moderate ex-Labour people & ex-Conservative people came out to vote for us (or Green) to protest against Brexit. It was meant as a sign to Corbyn to pull his socks up and that message was sent. Whether he listens is another matter but then he’ll have to take the consequences.

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