A duo of Lib Dem GAINS and a good hold

There was quite a crop of by-elections last night. Three were of particular interest to the Liberal Democrats.

You thought you’d seen big swings to us before but Abigail Medina produced a stunner in Whittlewood in South Northamptonshire:

My eyes are watering from that one.

Sorry, new Cllr Hawkins, because on any other day, your 39.2% from a standing start gain from UKIP would be at the top of this post:

But congratulations on a magnificent result!

And there was an impressive hold in Watford in new mayor Peter Taylor’s old Council seat.

Elsewhere, 16.7% from a standing start for Marianne Gilbert in Charnwood:

Helena Minton was up 6.9% in Fenland:

And we got 3% in Cherwell:

Sadly in Willesden Green, our vote share fell a bit:

In two by-elections in Basildon and another in South Northamptonshire, we didn’t have a candidate. Especially in the latter, where we won another seat in the Council area, could we not have found someone from the campaign team to stand, just to fly the flag? Perhaps a lesson for next time.

Well done to all who stood and their campaign teams. Enjoy a well earned rest.

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

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  • With the greatest respect I would also say that the results where we achieved next to nothing should also be of particular interest. We achieve very good results in smaller wards where very effective concentrated work can take place, but as a national party we should not bvve polling lows like 3% anywhere. This is similar to our results over the past 18 months including the May elections. We should be in at least double figures everywhere if we are going to start going places.

  • Whittlewood ward has at is main centre Potterspury village (on the A5 just north of Milton Keynes) and includes many acres of countryside westwards to the edge of the Silverstone motor racing circuit.

  • “could we not have found someone from the campaign team to stand, just to fly the flag? ”

    While I recognise that everyone is entitled to their views on such matters, could I also point out that there are plenty of us who have been involved in winning elections for many years (rather more than we might wish to admit sometimes) who think that ‘flying the flag’ is a pointless distraction which puts the Party in as poor light and which does nothing at all to help future prospects.

  • There were two council elections in Basildon yesterday in which the Lib Dems didn’t even stand. This denied someone I know and others the chance to vote for liberal policies and values in Pitsea South East. Can the national party look into why candidates didn’t stand in the two wards there.

  • Tony Dawson is correct. Not only is ‘flying the flag’ a pointless exercise, it is a form of self indulgence showing no respect to the electorate and simply advertises weakness.

  • David Sheppard 22nd Jun '18 - 12:40pm

    Sorry Tony and David but that’s not fair to small local party’s or to the electorate. Its all we can do in some areas.

  • I think Mica’s post, sandwiched between those of Tony D and David R, answers them both quite eloquently.

  • paul barker 22nd Jun '18 - 1:23pm

    The overall pattern yesterday was the same as on May 3rd, we stood in around three quarters of the contests & our results covered the whole range from Brilliant to abysmal.
    The average in all the byelections since May 3rd is around 14% so nothing much has changed in the last 6 Weeks.
    An average of the last 10 Opinion Polls puts us on 8.4%, right in the middle of our range over the last 2 Months & about 1% up on our performance for the 6 Months before that, our Recovery is real but very slow & bitty.

  • Laurence Cox 22nd Jun '18 - 1:35pm

    @Tony Dawson, David Raw

    There is no minimum cost to standing in a local council election, unlike a Parliamentary election where you have to pay a £500 deposit upfront and do not get it back if you fail to poll more than 5% of the vote. As a local election agent, I have made a nil return on election expenses where we did not do anything to promote our candidate (she was a genuine paperless candidate). As long as you have 10 electors willing to nominate your candidate, that is an entirely sufficient justification to run a candidate in a local election and give the local electors a Liberal Democrat candidate to vote for. Not to do so is showing a lack of respect to the voters.

  • Christopher Clayton 22nd Jun '18 - 2:01pm

    @Laurence Cox ” Not to do so is showing a lack of respect to the voters.”
    Quite the opposite. What is showing disrespect to the voters is putting a perception of party interest before the electors’ interests by standing a paper candidate. As Liberal Democrats should know, what the electors deserve in local elections and local councils is candidates committed to serving their local ward voters (of all parties) and holding the often arrogant and over-paid council officers and/or council leaderships to account on their behalf. By definition a “paper candidate ” (ie one who is not prepared to commit some resources of time and perhaps even money to demonstrating their fitness for that responsibility by actually getting out and campaigning, speaking and listening to people )is not being respectful to the electors, who, wholly justifiably, are unlikely to vote for them, even if sharing a party loyalty.

  • Asking for help costs nothing too. In places where we are weak this should be a knee-jerk reaction on the day the by-election is called. The next stage up from doing nothing is one leaflet across a polling district which is always worth doing. Am I being naïve in thinking that there is plenty of help around for that as well – one of the marks of a serious political party with a co-operative and mutual ethos.

  • Niger Bliss “if you don’t fight you don’t know”.

    Paper candidates don’t fight – and they certainly don’t know.

  • John Marriott 22nd Jun '18 - 6:34pm

    Tony Dawson and David Raw are entirely correct. However, there is a strong school of thought that reckons that ‘flying the flag’ is what Lib Dems are all about. I think I mentioned a while back a District Council By election around where I live at the time of the last European elections where a candidate, who lived nowhere near the Ward but wanted to stand to ‘help’ the Lib Dem European team, managed to get himself on the ballot paper and, on the day actually secured 9 votes. If we are to assume that those nine were his sponsors, what happened to number ten?

  • John Marriott 22nd Jun '18 - 9:41pm

    @Joseph Bourke
    Or perhaps the wind failed to blow so the flag never flew. Seriously though, I do really question this obsession with fighting elections with so called ‘paperless candidates’ when all the result tells you is that most people really don’t give you a second thought.

    Most of it has already been said. The irony is that some Tory and Labour candidates also occasionally get elected on a party ticket when they are not much more than paper candidates themselves. You can see this in their ‘performance’ when they realise what they have let themselves in for!

  • Chris Lofts 22nd Jun '18 - 9:49pm

    Thank you for the kind comments about our Whittlewood victory. I am the lib dem group leader on the council and was the agent for this by-election.
    We did have a candidate for the other by-election in Astwell but couldn’t get 10 signatures in time. So no nomination.
    We are a small local party but have grown over the last year since the referendum. Targeting seats we think we can win is our approach. Getting 10 signatures in certain wards where the Tories are historically encamped proves difficult.
    Whittlewood was won by a strong local candidate who is well known, helped by the incumbent Tory being disqualified for not attending meetings. Needless to say we made sure voters knew this!
    Once again thanks for the support.

  • @Chris Lofts thankyou for this information and well done to you and your local party for that spectacular gain. Same goes to West Somerset LP. I think perhaps we are guilty in LDV discussions of concentrating too much on the wood at times, and missing the trees. These were two stunning results, and though you must be exhausted you should know you’ve put smiles on the faces of party members across the country.

  • PS Same goes for Watford LP of course. And all the others, even the small % gains. It all helps this chart, taken from ElectionMaps twitter account just now:
    Since the General Election, there have been 270 council by-elections (for 276 seats). Here are the results:
    CON: 105 (-26) , 33.8% (+0.4)
    LAB: 96 (+11) , 32.5% (+5.8)
    LDM: 45 (+25) , 16.5% (+6.3)
    SNP: 3 (=), 3.5% (+0.9)
    UKIP: 0 (-11), 1.8% (-9.5)
    GRE: 4 (+3), 5 (-1.8)
    PC: 1 (=), 0.1% (=)
    OTH: 22 (+1), 6.9% (-2.1)

  • We should always stand a candidate. We have a duty as a party to give people the chance to vote Liberal Democrat. Those who argue for standing no candidates support a dereliction of duty by us.

  • And TonyH shows the other reason for standing. 9 votes by a paper candidate contributes 9 votes more to a national tally. Not standing, doesn’t.

  • Geoff Englis 24th Jun '18 - 9:20am

    I am with those who see a paperless candidate with no effort made to contact potential supporters and simply advertising our weakness as not only pointless but actually counterproductive.” You give people the chance to vote for you” and then to wonder why they bothered, so never again. I can perfectly understand a low key effort where thee is little prospect of victory, but if you aren’t looking for support you won’t find it. It seems to me that the philosophy of standing paperless candidates is harking back to the times where there was a basic minimum support level of at least 10-15% when such an approach could be justified. Now the equivalent background vote is more like 3% or less it can’t. With a good candidate and in the right circumstances we can pull off stupendous wins as this week has again illustrated, but to get anywhere you need to work, and I for one don’t think that’s such a bad thing. At least we are less likely to get embarrassingly bad candidates elected by accident, and can we say hand on heart that’s never happened in the past?

  • @ Tim Hill ” 9 votes by a paper candidate contributes 9 votes more to a national tally”.

    You forgot the bit about reducing the national percentage and the bit about the electorate of that ward reading about an abysmal performance in their local newspaper afterwards. To be fair the national figure is probably only noticed by a few political anoraks – but the local news isn’t.

    What’s much more important is that doing nowt is a breach of trust with the electorate….. It marks the party out as a non serious self indulgent joke with a credibility problem. If it was a football team can you imagine a manager telling his players not to bother if they don’t try and lose 10 – 0 and the crowd boo them off?

    I’m afraid in my world making an effort in everything is a precondition to everything……. But maybe in your world getting nine votes is acceptable.

  • I am Chair of a local branch. We have our District Council elections next year which has just has a boundary reorganisation. Our District is bigger in area than many counties. We have 66 members (up from 48 in the last 3 years) and 24 seats to contest. We’re hoping to put up 6 candidates. We would love to put up 24 but we’ve had to do some arm twisting to get to 6. We have funds but we need people – that’s the reality.

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