A Lib Dem GAIN, three strong Holds, and a leap forward

There have been six by-elections this week, and five have seen fantastic performances from the Lib Dems.

Last night’s big news was a stonking gain in Daventry. Wow, Cllr Jonathan Carter!

In Cardiff in a rare Tuesday by-election, we held a seat in style.  Congratulations to Rob Hopkins and team.

Another good hold in Wiltshire for Carole King

And in East Sheen in Richmond, Julia Cambridge gained almost 13% in a brilliant hold.

And in Ceredigion we took a good chunk out of Plaid’s majority. Michael Chappell did a great job!

Thanks to Adrian Gee-Turner for flying the flag in more difficult circumstances.

All  in all, a good night.

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

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  • For perspective about the Ceredigion ward (since it lies within a top target constituency and so these numbers matter more than percentages) the number of votes is relevant

    PC 186 [63.3%; -7.4%]
    LD Michael Chappell 93 [31.6%; +16.3%]
    Lab 15 [5.1%; -3.6%]

  • Excellent week’s results! Daventry was unbelievable!
    Now we can follow it up with a win in Brecon and Radnorshire. There was a good response on the doorstep there yesterday. If you haven’t been yet it is a lovely area to go campaigning.

  • Some excellent and pleasing results – BUT – “Thanks to Adrian Gee-Turner for flying the flag in more difficult circumstances.”

    I don’t know what the difficult circumstances were, so to some extent I must reserve judgement.

    However, the party must stop using the misleading euphemism of ‘flying the flag’. It appears the Lib Dems didn’t work but the Greens did – though the passive Lib Dem vote did enough to enable the Tories to hold the seat.The Lib Dem Party has been fortunate to recover a measure of support in recent times but this will quickly evaporate if ‘flying the flag’ becomes a habit. If the party wants support it has to work for it and to deserve it.

  • The Cardiff and Richmond wards where Tory Lib Dem marginals with a mixture of Tory and Lib Dem councillors returned in the last election. Not so marginal anymore. It seems few if any Tory seats are now safe, as Daventry was regarded as a safe Tory seat. The even better news is the Tories are so obsessed with the threat of the Brexit party they are unable to see the Lib Dems as a threat; good shades of 2015 but with the boot on the other foot.

  • clive english 19th Jul '19 - 10:54am

    Sadly the Ashford Party has been all but dead for some years. It is perhaps understandable that local resources are few, but less so than that living in a neigbouring strong Borough I did not see any attempt was made to ask us for help

  • If I am not mistaken East Sheen ward has been almost rock solid for the Conservatives up to last year, a 20% win for the Lib Dems is all the more remarkable.
    At Ashford Greens were already in second place, if it had been the other way round then I guess the Lib Dems would have been the beneficiaries.

  • @David Raw

    Could you provide some evidence that “flying the flag” (i.e putting up a candidate in a council by election) makes people support the Lib Dems less?

  • @ James Pugh “Could you provide some evidence that “flying the flag” (i.e putting up a candidate in a council by election) makes people support the Lib Dems less?”

    Yes, Mr. Pugh.

    1. A combination of well over fifty years of experience as an activist Liberal/Dem, being elected five times and never losing my seat – because of hard work campaigning.
    2. The common sense that hard work brings more rewards in any field of human endeavour.
    3. The common sense that if the electorate is less aware ofthe presence of a Liberal Democrat candidate they are less likely to vote for them
    4. The result in Ashford compared to the other results yesterday is self evident..

    Without a bit of hard work and common sense, the current electoral fair weather for Liberal Democrats will pass……. and are you suggesting that all the folk piling in to campaign in Brecon & Radnor are wasting their time and we’d get a better result if they stayed at home ? Dream on.

  • Shock horror @david raw says some “excellent” results – we must be doing well!!!

    A good result also in the Northumbria police commissioner by-election – up 8% and frustratingly last by only 3% – if we had got that extra 3% the transfers might have made it interesting!

    On effort and flying the flag – elections are a bit like swimming! You can swim hard but have the currents of the national and overall local environment push you back. Obv. in most areas (may be not deepest Lincolnshire!) the overall national environment is much more benign for us since May. In Ashford the overall local environment looking from a far is difficult. Obv. the greens did well in this ward in May and the Ashford Independents are a credible force – I believe containing quite a lot of lib Dems (not unlike ashfield)

    It is always in my IMHO better to at least stand a candidate so at least when people toddle along along to the polling station they find a lib Dem on the ballot paper as not finding a lib Dem sends a negative message. Of course better still to run as an active campaign as possible esp. in current circumstances but at least stand in the first place!

  • @David Raw

    So if I understood correctly, in your long lost, you actually didn’t provide any evidence whatsoever to substantiate your claim that fielding Liberal Democrat candidates in local council by elections reduces the support for the Liberal Democrat party.

    I am not disputing that putting work into a campaign increases votes/support (I’ve helped in enough parliamentary election campaigns, been agent and/or a campaign manager for enough local elections to know that). Strawman arguments like this that you put up only make your case even less credible.

    What I am disputing is your claim that fielding Lib Dem candidates in local council by elections decreases support for the party. Where is the evidence for this? Please no easily demolished stawmen arguments, they don’t work.

    Something may be a longstanding and deeply entrenched hobby horse for someone, but that doesn’t mean it’s a legitimate hobby horse. They still need to provide evidence backing up their position

  • Peter Watson 19th Jul '19 - 2:07pm

    @James Pugh “Could you provide some evidence that “flying the flag” (i.e putting up a candidate in a council by election) makes people support the Lib Dems less?”
    The obvious flip side of that is “Can you provide evidence that flying the flag makes people support Lib Dems more?”. After all, even if it is a harmless activity, if there is no benefit then why bother if people could be more usefully engaged elsewhere?
    Presumably, especially for a party that prides itself on an evidence-based approach, it should be possible to trawl through local election and by-election results to see if standing paper candidates has an effect one way or the other on subsequent results. Anecdotally, are there examples of a paper candidate accidentally winning and then standing down or going on to be a good councillor? Or are there examples of a paper candidate’s votes being enough to hand victory to a party that Lib Dems would find worse than whoever came second (which is a possibility that David is suggesting for the result in Ashford)?

  • This seems to have become a slightly testy conversation between people who all want the same thing. As Michael1 points out, it’s always better to at least have a Lib Dem on the ballot paper so that our supporters don’t get into the habit of voting for someone else.
    I can’t speak of Ashford, but if you are trying to fight a seat and you simply don’t have the activists to do the work, the “Flying The Flag2” is about all you can do. Although our national poll numbers look good, there are still lot of constituencies where the local party is low on numbers, as we all know.

  • Paul Barker 19th Jul '19 - 2:39pm

    I have been trying to estimate our Equivalent Vote share for recent contests; for the last 9 I get 27%. Our Local Vote seems to be going up at the same time as our National Polling is falling, slowly. Theres no real contradiction in that, Polling is almost entirely dependent on National ( ie Westminster focused) Media coverage but that has little effect on Local contests.
    We may get a lift in The Polls with our New Leader on Monday.

  • James Pugh 19th Jul ’19 – 1:47pm……………@David Raw, So if I understood correctly, in your long lost, you actually didn’t provide any evidence whatsoever to substantiate your claim that fielding Liberal Democrat candidates in local council by elections reduces the support for the Liberal Democrat party……………..

    Goodness me! I’m sure your insight would be welcomed in boardrooms all around the country; just think of all the money the manufacturers/salesmen of products could save by following your advice.
    I can just imagine MacDonald’s allowing Burger King’s claims to go unchallenged ; or, perhaps, I can’t…

  • nvelope2003 19th Jul '19 - 4:04pm

    The Greens appear to have been ahead of the Liberal Democrats at the previous election in Ashford so maybe some former Liberal Democrat voters decided to vote Green to defeat the Conservatives who do not seem to be doing well though a good campaign might have helped the party. The Greens do use every opportunity to undermine the Lib Dems when they scent the chance of winning but that is what elections are about.

    I note that Independents and local groups are still doing quite well – maybe we should be trying to steer their voters towards the Lib Dems ?

  • 70 people voted for us in Ashford who would not have done so if Adrian had not ‘flown the flag,’ so I’m going to suggest that as evidence that such candidacies do increase the numbers of people voting for us. The result also gives an indication of our base level of support in that ward, which could help the local party make future decisions about targeting. David Raw is of course entitled to his opinion on paperless campaigns, but he is wrong to imply that his long experience of campaigning is evidence means he must be right on this. There are a lot of campaigners in the party – including many with similar levels of experience and more – who take the diametrically opposite view. The official advice from the top campaigners in the party and ALDC has for many years been to encourage as many candidacies as possible at every level, including in areas where we are unable to run a campaign. Long may it continue.

  • Nonconformistradical 19th Jul '19 - 4:40pm

    On the ‘flying the flag’ issue – if we do put up a candidate in what appears to be a no-hope situation and the result is better than might have been expected that might indicate it is worth following up – conceivably among those voters there might just be one or two people willing to get involved if only they were known about and asked.

  • David Raw,

    I am a strong supporter of putting up a candidate in all elections unless there is a reason not to. The English Party’s model constitution for Local Parties has section 9.2 “The Executive Committee shall seek to ensure that, so far as practicable, all seats within the Constituency on Principal Local Authorities are contested by members of the Party, unless the Executive Committee is satisfied that it is in the best interests of the Party in any case not to do so.”

    As Michael 1 points out those who would like to vote for us can do so if we put up a candidate. There are lots of people who always vote and these people should be able to vote for us. I remember a few years ago voting for a non-Lib Dem candidate because my local party failed to put up a candidate. Putting up candidates everywhere and doing no work shows which wards have the strongest base from which to build. Some people after standing as a paper candidate go on to want to be a campaigning candidate. When more people used to buy newspapers and local newspapers listed all candidates, putting up a full slate gave the impression that we were as serious about the elections as the other two parties.

  • I normally agree with Michael BG, but I’m afraid I can’t this time. The clue is in the words…… “giving an impression” and “contesting”.

    I take the view that any candidate of whatever party is entering into an informal contract with the electorate… to represent them to the best of their ability and to strive to do this. “Giving an impression” is a form of deception. The word “contesting” implies just that – making an effort rather than sitting at home in an armchair.

    The Wimbledon authorities got it right when they recently fined an Australian player for ‘not trying’. No doubt the Ashford 70 voters made an effort to get out and vote and they were entitled to believe that the candidate would make a similar effort. When they saw the result no doubt they were suitably disappointed.

    Either the Liberal Democrat Party is a serious party or it isn’t. Judging by some of the comments above talk of a competent LIb Dem Prime Minister and a competent Lib Dem Government is mere wishful thinking. Politics is a serious business for grown ups not a plaything……. as no doubt Boris Johnson will soon find out.

  • Peter Watson 19th Jul '19 - 5:37pm

    @Tom McLean “70 people voted for us in Ashford who would not have done so if Adrian had not ‘flown the flag,’ so I’m going to suggest that as evidence that such candidacies do increase the numbers of people voting for us.”
    Perhaps. But previous election results in Andrew Teale’s by-election preview (http://britainelects.com/2019/07/18/previews-18-jul-2019/) supports David’s view, suggesting that “flying the flag” in May led to a decline in Lib Dem votes in July, and “flying the flag” in May 2003 led to a decline in May 2007, while not standing again until 2019 led to an increase! Also, this result suggests that those 70 voters let the Tory candidate win instead of a Green candidate who it is not unreasonable to suggest they might have preferred, possibly harming future Lib Dem support.

  • @Peter Watson: ““flying the flag” in May led to a decline in Lib Dem votes in July, and “flying the flag” in May 2003 led to a decline in May 2007, while not standing again until 2019 led to an increase.”
    Peter you just cannot make those kind of assumptions. It’s frankly ridiculous to do so. “B happened after A, so A must therefore have caused B,” is not a reliable scientific model.

  • David Raw,

    All three main parties put up candidates and do nothing to get them elected. Even in Parliamentary elections there are some constituencies where a political party does not put out any literature whatever. All political parties don’t have enough resources to fight every seat fully. The alternative is a return to nineteenth century politics where many candidates are elected unopposed. I think it is better that there is a range of candidates for people to vote for, even if they do little to get elected, than lots of candidates get elected unopposed without a single vote being cast.

  • I normally agree with David Raw whose years of loyalty is similar to mine. However while accepting the always stand advice I still think a best practice for regional parties would be to ensure that something is done somewhere within a by-election ward. I don’t expect anyone one to answer this but was soft-pedalling in Ashford in the face of Green strength deliberate or not?

  • I absolutely reject the notion that we should only put up a candidate if we are going to do well.

    I think it’s easy to come to this as politicos. You have to put yourself in the position of an “ordinary punter’. The one thing they will notice is if they toddle down the polling station or receive a postal vote and there’s no lib dem candidate and the terrible message that sends.

    To continue the Wimbledon analogy 99.9% of the time s player loses 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 – and the Ashford result was better than that – is because they are playing a better player. It happens in elections! And it is easy to be too judgemental from afar. Clearly we encountered some better players in that the greens and ashfield Indies were well placed.

    Having said that any local party lucky to have a local by-election at the moment has a massive massive opportunity at the moment. And nearby stronger local parties reallu should be supporting nearby weaker local parties that have a by-election and such local parties should ask for help.

    If this was not the best result for us it was absolutely dire for labour with them getting barely a third of the vote they got in May

    @Paul Barker.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if our current national equivalent vote share since May is higher than 27% as 91 by-elections takes us back before May and approaching 30%. In general we do 5%-8% better in may local elections vote share than our Westminster opinion poll rating at the time. In addition my calculations show us doing 2%-3% in by-elections than in may local elections at the same time which would take us back down to around 20% for Westminster voting intention which is indeed in line with the polls. The interesting thing will be to see how it changed from next week onwards!!!

  • A good question from Geoff Reid.

    I’d also ask, what are Regional Parties for if not to provide support in byelections and we’re they involved in Ashford ?

    I note nobody has challenged the point about an unwritten social contract between a candidate and the electorate. Did the Ashford 70 feel let down by the lack of commitment of the local Lib Dems – or did they feel cheated when their vote let the Tory back in ? To put it another way – and Geoff this is for you – would Bradford City football supporters feel let down and stop attending matches if they felt their team wasn’t committed and trying its best – and is he familiar with the book on Yorkshire cricket titled, ‘We don’t play it for fun’ ?

  • Peter Watson 19th Jul '19 - 9:57pm

    @Tom McLean “It’s frankly ridiculous to do so.”
    I was pointing to B happening after A twice, and the opposite of B happening when there was no A to follow. Flimsy as it is, it’s closer to “evidence” than anything I’ve spotted in this thread so far!

  • @ Michael 1. “We should only put up a candidate if they are going to do well ?

    What a gross distortion of ‘we should only put up a candidate if they are going to make an effort’.

  • Looking at the people Depiffle is assembling it seems we will soon be faced with the Cabinet of no talents.

  • Richard Underhill 19th Jul '19 - 10:26pm

    “examples of a paper candidate accidentally winning and … going on to be a good councillor?”
    Tony Greaves wrote an obituary on Liberal Democrat Voice of one such in Pendle.
    He provided accommodation to several of us during the Ribble Valley by-election.
    He was persuaded to stand for the council by Tony Greaves and the Pendle PPC because he was the only member in the ward.
    Then he found out how unpopular the Tory was
    and won, repeatedly, until he died.

  • David Becket 19th Jul '19 - 10:33pm

    It is pretty obvious that in Ashford we should have let the Greens fly the flag

  • Peter – You’re seriously telling us that voters went to the polls in 2007, thinking “well I’m not gonna vote for the LibDems because I remember they stood four years ago and didn’t do any campaigning!” And that they then, TWELVE YEARS LATER, went to vote saying “D’you know what, the LibDems haven’t stood here for dozen years. Lets vote for them!” ‘Flimsy’ is not the word. It certainly is not persuasive evidence of anything.
    David Raw – your principle of an unspoken contract between candidate and elector is just not something I agree with. If a candidate decides to put forward policies and campaign, they can do so, and that is certainly a contract which they should be held to if elected. But if another candidate chooses not to do that and rely purely on his/her party description, then that’s fine too. The voters decide.
    Michael1 – “You have to put yourself in the position of an “ordinary punter’. The one thing they will notice is if they toddle down the polling station or receive a postal vote and there’s no lib dem candidate and the terrible message that sends.” Absolutely right Michael. This is the key point in this whole thread. I was that ‘ordinary punter’ myself when I was younger, and it is soul-destroying as a LibDem to not be able to vote for your party. We do that to unknown numbers of our fellow LibDems every year because they live in the ‘wrong’ place, and it is frankly shameful.

  • Graham Evans 19th Jul '19 - 11:25pm

    Ashford is in many respects a partial black hole in regard to opposition to the Tories. In the whole council elections Tories regularly get returned unopposed in some wards. This even happens in wards which in the previous election did have an opposition candidate.

  • Peter Watson 20th Jul '19 - 1:06am

    @Tom McLean “You’re seriously telling us that voters went to the polls in 2007, thinking “well I’m not gonna vote for the LibDems because I remember they stood four years ago and didn’t do any campaigning!” And that they then, TWELVE YEARS LATER, went to vote saying “D’you know what, the LibDems haven’t stood here for dozen years.”

    I’ve no idea whether campaigning in Ashford was active but it’s possible to spin a credible narrative that is consistent with election results in that seat. It seems quite feasible that voters in 2007 thought their Lib Dem vote was a wasted vote at the previous election, then in May 2019 thought, based on national publicity, that the Lib Dems were back in the game before realising it was again a wasted vote and swinging away in July 2019. And unless the second choice of those 70 Lib Dem voters was a Tory (which is quite possible), then more might vote Green next time giving an impression, however misleading, of declining Lib Dem support.

    Reminding voters that the party is alive and kicking by fielding a candidate sounds like a good idea, but given the low turnout in these by-elections, it is quite possible that more potential voters (including those in neighbouring wards) will see the reported result than see the ballot paper, so the negative publicity of a poor result might outweigh the benefits of being in the election.

    I don’t know if the interpretation of the numbers above is correct or whether it applies elsewhere, but for a party that regularly touts its evidence-based credentials (and prides itself on targeted campaigning) debates like this (or a recent one on school uniforms) seem to be entirely based on anecdote and gut-feeling. In this case at least, ALDC, Britain Elects (and Paul Barker 😉 ) collect election and by-election stats so the numbers are there for somebody to sift through and find whether or not standing paper candidates has any correlation at all with subsequent electoral performance. In a case like Ashford, there may have been a real cost (i.e. gifting the seat to the Conservatives under first past the post), and given the strength of feeling in some of the posts it must be important enough to justify trying to find a more rigorous basis for by-election strategies.

  • Alex Macfie 20th Jul '19 - 8:56am

    Peter Watson: I doubt the electorate of Ashford BC, Downs North gave any thought at all as to whether the Lib Dems had stood previously in their ward, or how well we did on those occasions that we stood. You, David Raw and some others are assuming that ordinary voters have a level of knowledge and awareness of politics that most of them simply do not have. I concur with the analysis that the creditable Lib Dem result in the May local elections was due in a large part to the national uplift (and our failure to stand a candidate since 2007 had no bearing on it whatsoever, except that it showed our lack of local strength). But the idea that voters made any sort of conscious decision about whether it’s worth voting Lib Dem in the subsequent by-election on the basis of the previous result. The May result seems to be one we could have built on, if we had had the campaign organisation locally. Unfortunately, we did not, hence the fall in vote share. I hope we can do better there in the future, and our chances are much higher having stood a candidate than if we had not.

  • @ Alex Macfie oh no I didn’t. I simply pointed out that if you don’t work as a candidate you get – and deserve to get – a poor result. End of.

  • Clive English : Did that thriving party in a nearby local borough make any attempt to offer help to the Ashford candidate’s campaign ?

    If we really wanted to help the Green Party we should not have stood a candidate.

  • John Marriott 20th Jul '19 - 11:50am

    I really must support my friend David Raw’s comments about ‘flying the flag’. I’ve done a fair amount of campaigning in my time, mainly in Lincolnshire, where the Lib Dems, in terms of electoral success, have been very much an endangered species for many years.

    Let me avoid the psephological comments of such experts as the two Michaels (1 and BG). Let me instead put myself in the shoes of a typical voter. If it’s a local by election, the chances are that I won’t vote at all. However, if I am keen to exercise my democratic right, it’s quite possible that, in ‘flying the flag’ wards, the first time that I shall receive any literature is when I receive my ballot paper, either via the Polling Clerk or the Royal Mail.

    There will likely be at least two names on the ballot paper. Unless I happen to know any of them (and knowledge here is an important decider, believe me), the chances are that I will look straight at the party logo. “Oh, there’s a Lib Dem,” I say to myself. “I’m pretty brassed off with the other lot, so I’ll vote for them” (Notice the use of the third person PLURAL).

    What I don’t realise is that the Lib Dem ‘candidate’, were they actually to win, would be pushed to attend many council meetings, as some candidates are more ‘equal’ than others, especially if they are Tory around here. Let’s be honest, it’s just a bit of election kidology. I vividly remember the problems we had on our local District Council with a paper candidate, who got elected, and who struggled, because of work commitments, to beat the six month deadline for attendance over a four year period. Embarrassment doesn’t describe it adequately!

    You see, my philosophy when standing for election was always not only to want to and to work to win; but, before that, to have a plan of what I intended to try to do for my residents if I was successful. I was certainly not going to just ‘fly the flag’, whether for the Liberal Party, the SDP, the Alliance or the Lib Dems. That stood me in good stead for thirty years.

  • @David Raw: You are assuming that. And unless you were actually there, you are also making assumptions about the candidate and the campaign that was run. You are perhaps reading way, way too much into the OP’s “flying the flag” comment. And in an article about mostly good results for the Lib Dems, you seize on the one poor result and imply that the result means we were doing something morally wrong by even standing a candidate. I absolutely reject that idea. So the comments have mostly been about the one poor result, rather than the 4 victories and one where we ate into our principal opponent’s majority. This really isn’t helpful. Fine, discuss what might have gone wrong in Ashford, and how we might improve next time. But it is deeply offensive to imply that the party as a whole is acting immorally by standing in such contests, and that this trumps our successes.

  • Peter Watson – I’m all for evidence-based campaigning, but it needs to be done properly, not on the back of an envelope. That’s why we have the Campaigns dept and ALDC where expert campaigners analyse election results professionally. And both organisations are very clear: we should stand as many candidates as we can, including paperless ones. That is our party’s official campaigning strategy, and I hope more local parties continue to follow it. If any local party is unsure what to do when a by election happens, ALDC is always willing to help advise.

  • Yeovil Yokel 20th Jul '19 - 2:42pm

    (By the way, John Marriott, how did you fare when you contacted your local Returning Officer about the Independent canvassing INSIDE your local polling station during the Locals on 02 May? I’m curious because when telling here in S. Somerset the rules were crystal clear and, as far as I know, strictly observed).

  • John Marriott 20th Jul '19 - 3:13pm

    @Yeovil Yokel
    The answer, my friend, was absolutely NOWHERE. Methinks it’s not only time to reform local government structure and finance but voting rules as well. I did contact my ‘friendly’ local newspaper reporter; but he got nowhere either. Mind you, this IS Lincolnshire.

    I lost the word count on my last posting, so here’s the last paragraph I expunged:

    ‘Flying the flag’
    A vacancy occurred in a ward at the southern end of North Kesteven District during the run up to the previous European Parliamentary Elections and our local Secretary, much against my better judgement, decided to put himself forward to support our existing MEP. Living as he did over twenty miles to the north, it was pretty clear that he wasn’t going to get that many votes. After all, people would take one look at his address on the ballot paper and draw their own conclusions. He got his ten signatures and came bottom of the Poll with NINE votes. Now that’s surely not embarrassment but rather humiliation!

  • Yeovil Yokel 20th Jul '19 - 3:51pm

    Thanks, John Marriott. It sounds like the problem in your neck of the woods is not the election rules as such, but their enforcement – unless Lincolnshire has made up its own rules…..

  • Many thanks, John. As far as going to the moon is concerned, even though it’s a universal credit free zone, I think I’d rather fly the flag.

  • John Marriott 20th Jul '19 - 4:53pm

    By the way, please don’t think that my post on flying the flag makes me a killjoy. Those positive results last Thursday are largely down to some bloody hard work so well done! However, as I’ve said many times before, Lib Dems have really got to look further than just winning seats. There is more to politics at this or any level than just winning. The hard bit is combining the rôle of activist with that of a councillor, who needs to work with others to get things done. That’s where I came unstuck, as did my many colleagues who, between 1987 and around 2005, tried to combine the twin rôles. When push came to shove, the activist rôle tended to take a back seat.

    What we should have done was to have recruited a new cohort, who could have taken on that rôle. Having ‘organisers’, who do not want to be councillors is a massive plus, as far as I am concerned. We didn’t and in the end we epitomised the famous Powell dictum. Around here, Tory candidates, for example, are spoon fed by an organisation of helpers and advisers, so they can concentrate on being councillors.

  • @David Raw
    “”””I take the view that any candidate of whatever party is entering into an informal contract with the electorate… “”””

    That is your view, a perfectly noble and legitimate view, but a personal view of yours none the less.

    And because it is a personal view of yours, it doesn’t translate that others agree with it. Just because you hold this view very strongly and share it with others repeatedly on the comments section of this site, doesn’t make it true. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you can just make things up and state them as fact that standing a Liberal Democrat candidate in a local council by election can cause support for the Liberal Democrats to decrease.

    By all means continue to believe what you believe about paper candidacy. Of course if you believe what you do, then don’t stand as a Liberal Democrat paper candidate. But since you are not a member of the Liberal Democrats (correct me if I’m wrong), this is all rather an academic suggestion. I’m often rather curious about people who are not members and -judging by their posts – deeply hostile to the party, and wonder why they keep on offering “advice” to a party they don’t support and in fact seem to hold in contempt

  • @John Marriott

    “”””I vividly remember the problems we had on our local District Council with a paper candidate, who got elected, and who struggled, because of work commitments, to beat the six month deadline for attendance over a four year period. Embarrassment doesn’t describe it adequately!””””

    I agree that this is a risk of paper candidacies, but it is a rather small risk for Liberal Democrats these days (1. less hidden/”surprise” protest vote, 2. a tendency for local parties to be over ambitious with ward targeting). But if local parties are worried about the risk of a dud councillor getting elected and causing embarrassment, then the biggest risk comes in the selection of a new candidate in a previously held Lib Dem ward. Maybe to avoid all risks of the local party getting dud councillor, they should not put up any candidates anywhere.

  • @David Raw

    I am of course like you disappointed when people/local parties don’t fight hard but I am more disappointed for them as local by-elections are a massive opportunity for them esp. at the moment.

    As you, I think, have noted many hard working councillors lost because of the coalition and even in these more benign times for us there are more difficult areas for us such as um… Lincolnshire and Ashford!


    You can’t judge from afar!

    Actually if you look at the results in Ashford it was one of our better results in the last 20 years.

    Non-league football clubs can work hard in the FA Cup against a premier league side and still come off with a 10-0 drubbing etc.

    In Ashford we were up against a strong Green and localist challenge in a strong electoral position.

    We have no councillors on the council with Ashford Indies being the second biggest group.

    And sadly in 2015 no lib dems stood with according to kentonline lib Dems resigning at protest at the coalition.

    So we are making progress – no doubt through hard work.

    It also contains a massive warning.

    We need to crush our competition (greens especially, Indies, localists, labour in a Tory area overall) as supposed to opposition. Otherwise they cause problems.

    I have known councils were we have effectively let labour and Indies have a couple of wards each as “their” wards and we have let the Tories have the council as a result. They also have a dangerous tendency to spread!

  • @john Marriott

    Shame on you for calling it a humiliation – with respect and in my humble opinion.

    It is never a humiliation to stand for election, and to take part in the democrat process – nothing is more important to guard against dictatorships .

    We are after all supposed to be democrats!!!

    As importantly 99.999999999999% of people in the ward will not know the result, they will know whether there was a Lib Dem on the ballot paper when they made the effort to vote!

    There are many areas where in the 70s, liberals formed a branch, started putting out focuses and practising community politics and got terrible results when they first stood that we subsequently won the parliamentary seat.

    Standing for the first time as a paper/paperless candidate may only be a small step forward but it’s a step forward. We should honour, venerate and praise such attempts not slag them off!

    Perhaps more importantly is what happens AFTER a by-election. We should spend a tenner on a thank you Focus, do some doorstep surveys, recruit deliverers and of course most importantly throw stones at the council. And locally and regionally help people to do that

    Who knows even the good residents in deepest darkest Lincolnshire may see the light! Even if sadly it takes a few decades!

    Remember that the actual result is only some fiction made up by the returning officer!

  • John Marriott 21st Jul '19 - 3:53pm

    @Michael 1
    Shame on me?

    When you fail to get even the number of votes to match the signatures on your nomination papers, that’s humiliation in my book. But what do you expect when you are literally just a name on a ballot paper?

    When we started out in North Hykeham in 1983 we started from zero. In fact, we had three members. By sheer hard work and sticking to local issues, by 1999 we had a majority on the Town Council, all five District Council seats and one of the two County Council seats. Sadly, we are now more or less back to square one, for reasons I outlined on another thread. Being a Lib Dem around here is often a case of taking two steps forward and one, or even, two steps back.

    I’d be interested in knowing more about your own experience of standing for election. You strike me as someone with plenty of ideas, many of which would appear to have been culled from the ALDC manual of good practice. Are you now just doing your exhortation via your electronic devise, or are you still actively practising what you appear to be preaching?

    And please, don’t try to teach granny to suck eggs. Unlike a certain Facebook executive’s colleagues across the pond, I know exactly what that means.

  • John Marriott,

    I am surprised that in North Kestevan it was possible to get someone elected for us without putting out any leaflets. In 1994 we got elected some people elected in wards where we had done little work, but we did do some work during the election campaign. In 2013 UKIP won a seat where two were up for election with little campaigning and their winning candidate didn’t seem prepared for being a councillor. I think he managed to serve out his three year term. How did North Kestevan Lib Dems get someone elected without putting out any literature?

    In the past our party didn’t put up candidates everywhere in Great Britain. It wasn’t until 1983 that the Alliance had a candidate in every seat (with three seats having two!) before that I couldn’t find any general election where the Liberal Party fought every seat in Great Britain (I only went back to 1892). Nowadays we do put up a candidate in every seat in Great Britain unless there is a reason not to do so (Speaker, ex-SDP sitting MPs, Tatton, Wyre Forrest and in 2017 for two Greens). Not every local party can afford to put out even the free post leaflet. So do David Raw and John Marriott think we should go back to the 1950s and only stand in 110 seats?

  • David Evans 21st Jul '19 - 4:27pm

    Michael BG, Why do you ask such extremely loaded questions? David and John are talking about local government by-elections where no leaflets and little effort is put in. You imply some sort of logical equivalence with a parliamentary seat in a general election and ask if they would want us to go back to the 1950s.

    Do you really believe that it is likely that the Lib Dems would be unable to put out one leaflet in over 500 constituencies!?

  • Well said, John. Like my old friend I’d love to know what experience Mr Pugh and Michael 1 have of being candidates, of fighting and winning an election, being a Councillor, managing a portfolio or standing for parliament ….. or is it all just all talk ?

    For my part I’ve been elected five times, never lost my seat, was the first Liberal Councillor and led a growing group in what is now Tim Farron’s seat, led a Lib Dem group in Cumbria, was Cabinet Member (Social Care) in Scotland, been employed at party HQ, was Vice-Chair of NLYL, worked for an MP , stood as a PPC (came second, 14,000 plus votes)… Oh, and since you ask young James (correct me if I’m wrong)……. when Chukka has paid 58 annual subs he will caught me up. I can’t count how many pairs of shoes I’ve worn out.

    I’m too long in the tooth now to believe there’s any other way of succeeding (and serving the electorate with respect) without hard work and effort…… or maybe you know better ? Politics isn’t a plaything to be indulged in on an occasional armchair basis….. though clearly some folk think it is.

  • @ Michael BG I respect your views on the need to tackle poverty Michael, and I’m sorry you didn’t make it to the SLF Conference in London yesterday (where I buttonholed Ed Davey and gave him my annotated copy of the UN Alston Report on poverty).

    However, I’m really astonished at your question about 110 seats. I want the party to get off its derriere,do something properly and not just diddle about as a talking shop. Tackling poverty (some of it caused between 2010-15) is part of all that.

  • John Marriott 21st Jul '19 - 5:09pm

    @Michael BG
    It’s KestevEn, by the way. If you were referring to the candidate, who got elected, was a choice made largely out of desperation, as we had held the seat for a number of years. In fairness, he did deliver leaflets and replaced a Lib Dem Councillor, who was standing down, at the end of the electoral cycle in 1995. He was NOT what Liberals delightfully describe, a ‘paperLESS’ candidate, unlike our By Election candidate for the same Council a number of years later.

    This By Election happened at the fag end of the previous European Parliamentary campaign, not his year’s and the decision to stand was down basically to try to maximise the Lib Dem vote, which was due to take place not long afterwards. The point I was trying to make was that the electorate is generally not that stupid. It can usually spot whether a candidate is serious or not or just ‘flying the flag’. Mind you, given the way Lincolnshire voted in the 2016 referendum a few years later and that the Lib Dems were associated in most people’s minds with Remain, perhaps nine votes was a fair result!

  • Paul Barker 21st Jul '19 - 5:54pm

    The tone of this thread has got a bit negative which seems odd when we are doing much better than we have for Years, since 2010 probably. All the evidence suggests that we are doing significantly better than we did in May when we made 700 gains. Lets remember that we are all entitled to equal respect however short a time we have been Members & however much or little we feel we can do.
    ALDC believe that if we had stood more candidates in May those 700 Gains could have been 1,000. We have been standing more Candidates for several Years now, lets keep going in that direction.

  • David Evans,

    I don’t think there are 521 constituencies where we can’t put out the free post leaflet. I would hope that the number is low, but I think it isn’t as low as I would expect.

    David Raw,

    Did you enjoy the SLF conference yesterday? I am surprised that Ed Davey needed your annotated copy of Philip Alston’s report and didn’t have one of his own which he had read, especially as during the leadership campaign he mentioned wanting to deal with poverty.

    If you don’t think we should put candidates up for council seats where we can’t put out a leaflet and work to get them elected, then to be consistent you should think the same about Parliamentary constituencies. We target resources into a number of seats. In 2015 I assume we can’t have targeted more than 80 seats. In 2017 we were second in only 38 seats a fall of 25 from 2015. Therefore using your logic we should put candidates up only in seats where we are going to put out the free post leaflet. How many constituencies do you think couldn’t afford to put out the free post leaflet in 2019?

  • John Merriott,

    Sorry about the spelling mistake I am normally more careful. Thank you for making it clear that your example of someone winning in North Kesteven for us was not in a ward which we had not worked for a while and that in fact we did work it to win it that year.

    I accept that more people vote for us if we work the area. I believe we can only win where we work very hard to win the seat unless we have done enough over the course of the year to get away with a couple of leaflets during the election campaign and no other party puts out any leaflets.

    In your comment of 20th July 11.50am you correctly point out what might happen to a voter when they go to vote. This is why for people who wish to vote for the Lib Dems it is important to put up a candidate for them to vote for. The votes we receive in the local elections when we do nothing show our rock bottom base. In a by-election this is likely to be even lower because turnout in by-elections is normally lower across the board. Personally I think that during a by-election we should do some campaigning and a long time ago when I was the local party agent we did that. Doing some campaigning doesn’t always protect us from a poor result. In a by-election in 2017 we did some work but came third with only 3.1% of the vote; in 2015 we received 5.8% of the vote but did nothing, putting all of our effect elsewhere and retaining two council seats.

  • Chris Stanbra 22nd Jul '19 - 8:04am

    The winning candidate in Brixworth was Jonathan Harris, not Carter. Well done to him and the Daventry Lib Dems team!

  • @ Michael BG. Yes, I was surprised Ed hadn’t read the Alston Report, and I’m also surprised that no Lib Dem MP has made any public statement or taken part in a Commons debate about it.

    I was also surprised and disappointed that the SLF conference didn’t discuss what it said on the tin. There was a great deal about pacts and Europe but nothing about benefits, disabilities, food banks or the issues I see daily at the food bank. You must ask Katharine what she made of it.

  • @ Michael BG On your other point, I think there’s a world of difference between a General Election with all that entails in floods of national publicity and national swings and a local government by-election where a regional party ought to get off its derriere to do some on the ground face to face work as a recruiting opportunity.

    On the Alston Report, it should be compulsory reading for every Lib Dem PPC, M.P. and peer..

  • David Raw,

    I hope Katharine will tell me all about her experience of the SLF conference. The conference was supposed to be on “Freedom from Poverty” and on their website they stated, “This year our speakers, panels and discussions at conference will focus on how to free people from poverty and the radical ideas needed to make it happen”. Are you saying this wasn’t the case? If so I am glad I didn’t attend.

    William Wallace must have read Alston. Did you get the impression that Wera Hobhouse had read it?

    Is it only in local government by-elections which you object to us putting up candidates and doing nothing?

    My experience of regions is that they have limited funds and want to use these funds to get people elected and not support weak local parties. I don’t know how to change attitudes so those who run regions see the region’s main role as supporting weak local parties. I have even come across a “trickle-down theory”, that if one constituency is strong this will increase support in neighbouring constituencies.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Jul '19 - 2:11pm

    ‘The conference was supposed to be on “Freedom from Poverty”’

    I would say this is an achievable goal but it’s not going to come about as a result of increased Social Benefits, the introduction of a UBI or anything similar.

    You know the reasons why. For one thing the system, as it is now, has to deliberately create a pool of poverty just so that we will all work hard to keep ourselves falling into it. Our GDP is some 250% higher than it was in the 70s. Who would have thought that could happen and there still be a poverty problem? Increased GDP can never fix it because that would undermine the system we have now.

    Note that “achievable” doesn’t mean it’s going to be “easy” as you’ve previously claimed. Anything requiring a system change is never going to be easy.

  • I was very sorry to hear of Mr English’s present circumstances and very much regret if anything I have said may have caused him discomfort.

    The hard question remains, what is the role of regional or neighbouring constituencies when there is a by-election ?

  • Thankyou Geoff. Its always good to get that kind of context in these discussions. For what its worth I think you did exactly the right thing in Downs North, and hopefully better times will come for us again in Ashford.

  • @David Raw

    I’ve been an election agent + full time campaign manager for a number of local council by-elections in my borough. Plus on 2 occasions taken time away from work to help full time in the short campaign of 2 elections (1 for local elections in 2018, the other for the GE in 2017 relocating to a target constituency I’d barely heard of for a candidate I had never met). I also attended Richmond Park for about half of the days during the 2016 byelection. I’m fortunate to work contracts, meaning I am flexible, but of course every day I choose to help with a campaign is a day’s pay that I sacrifice.

    No experience of being a candidate nor elected representative, and no interest either. Whilst there is a shortage of capable people willing to be candidates, there is a far bigger shortage of capable people willing to take on voluntary organisational roles that are needed to get candidates elected.

    As much as your experience for the party is noble, let’s go back to a metaphor you used in your initial comment. Just as you believe that Lib Dem support will “evaporate” by standing candidates in local council by elections (which is in my view nonsense), I can say that the individual and institutional memory of all the good work that you did for the party is evaporating because your sole contribution for years has been to attack and attempt to demoralise the party, whilst frequently professing how you don’t and won’t support the party. Is that really the legacy that you want to leave us?

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