ALDC by-election report, 13th November: Two wins, but too many failures to stand

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)Seven principal by-elections were held yesterday. In Cambridge, Liberal Democrat candidate Viki Sanders gained a seat from Labour in Queen Edith’s to add to the party’s victory in the ward in May’s local elections. Viki polled 36.5% of the vote to finish 143 votes clear of the Labour candidate. When summarising the win, Cambridgeshire County Councillor Amanda Taylor, who had been assisting with Viki’s campaign said, “Helpfully assisted by a vacuous Labour campaign, the victory was essentially based upon a routine of all-year-round ALDC-style activity and the delivery of regular leaflets and surveys, combined with six weeks of by-election boot camp and building upon lots of work in the community”.

In the Bulmershe & Whitegates contest in Wokingham UA, the Conservatives secured a comfortable victory by winning with a majority of 228 votes, to secure a gain from the Liberal Democrats, although the outgoing Councillor had been sitting as an Independent at the time of his exit. Lib Dem candidate Munir Ahmed polled 21.8% of the vote in finishing third, one place higher than the party managed in the ward’s last election held in May and with a 4.1% increase in the vote share.

In the by-election in Bolney ward on Mid Sussex DC, the Conservatives saw their vote share decrease by 24.3% but managed to retain their seat with a narrow majority of 74 votes ahead of UKIP’s candidate. Liberal Democrat candidate Simon Hicks increased the party’s share of the vote by 6.9% in finishing 100 votes adrift of the Conservative candidate in third place.

In addition, there were two by-elections in Dartford with the Conservatives holding their seat in Brent and Labour retaining theirs in Littlebrook. There were also holds for the Conservatives in Alport and Derwent on Derbyshire CC and for Labour on Wigan MB in Douglas Ward. No Liberal Democrat candidates were fielded in these four contests.

Elsewhere Liberal Democrat candidate Alan Clark won a seat on Northwich Town council, becoming the only non-Labour representative on the council.

* ALDC is the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners

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  • paul barker 15th Nov '14 - 9:28am

    The Voters are willing to Vote for us, we have to do our bit by actually standing candidates.

  • paul barker 15th Nov ’14 – 9:28am
    The Voters are willing to Vote for us, we have to do our bit by actually standing candidates.

    It is nice to be able to say that I agree 100% with a comment from paul barker.

    We may of course disagree on why so few of our members are prepared to stand as candidates after ten years of the Orange Gang and the continuing failures of the leadership.

  • Just a word of caution, they vote for us in isolated pockets, look at Wokingham for the opposite effect. Having said that perhaps the Stockport pocket will deliver for us next Thursday at Bramhall South, although this is one of the Conservatives best areas in the Hazel Grove/|Cheadle territory. May this year Cons 1802, Lib Dem 1373, Lib Dem vote up 300 on 2012, so a squeeze on Labours 500 odd might produce a closer still contest or even a marginal win. Bit of a test case for our targeting General Election tactics. Nationally Cons not doing so bad at the moment so we must not be seen to be falling back.
    HOWEVER ROCHESTER LOOMS,how this will affect us remains to be seen.

  • Steve Comer 15th Nov '14 - 1:29pm

    Paul: Its all very well to say ” we have to do our bit by actually standing candidates”, but just who is the “we” he is talking about?

    To me the lack of candidates is a clear sign that party has become worryingly moribund in far too many places.
    If there are no members, no activists, and nobody to collect the necessary 10 signatures then its hardly surprising there are no candidates in local by-elections! To keep haranguing local parties for not standing candidates is about as useful as shouting in an empty room.

    I think we’ve gone past the days when local parties didn’t stand candidates because they were ‘saving funds for the General Election.’ We need the incoming Federal Executive is hard look at the state of the party organisation after May’s elections, and a realistic action plan to revive local parties.

  • Steve Comer 15th Nov '14 - 1:35pm

    …and John Tilley is right too, 10 years of the drift towards an establishment market-oriented center-right politics is the main reason why the party has become moribund in too many places.

    Too many younger people who want a radical alternative are being attracted by the Green Party, which appears to have occupied much of the space that Liberals once had in the political spectrum. Of course they’ll find in time that the Green Party is illiberal, authoritarian, and has no economic policy that can deliver anything for them. The trouble is will the Liberal Democrats ever articulate an alternative vision of politics again or will we still be the third, smallest establishment unionist party, as we’re perceived to be now?

  • David Blake 15th Nov '14 - 1:50pm

    Steve, the Greens have a simple message. Nowadays we have no real message at all.

  • The Queen Edith’s result is uplifting, simply because we won. It is clearly a boost for Julian Huppert, a really excellent Parliamentarian we can ill afford to lose, and is capable of being spun as the Liberal Democrats turning the corner in Cambridge, though it is hardly that. We really should have done better, and that 7.7% rise in the Tory vote is ominous. But a win is a win is a win.

    The result from Mid Sussex tells us that UKIP is capable of doing serious damage to the Tories where it fields a candidate, even in their bedrock areas. Bolney is a wealthy semi-rural locality where we would expect the Tories to walk away with 70% at a general election. More UKIP candidates, please, Nigel!

    The results from Dartford are mixed, but not good for Labour. Littlebrook is one half of the Temple Hill council estate. It should be solid Labour, but we’re in North Kent here, and they cannot even make it to 50%. UKIP has hoovered up the votes left behind by the English Democrats, has collected a few from Labour, and has left the Tories intact. Brent is working-class but owner-occupied. Labour really needs to be winning here if they have any hope of taking Dartford back next May. In Dartford, the Tories are suffering less at the hands of UKIP than further along the Estuary. Why that is, I couldn’t say.

    We must hope and pray for a UKIP win in Rochester.

  • Steve Comer 16th Nov '14 - 2:21am

    Sesenco: “We must hope and pray for a UKIP win in Rochester.”
    WHY? It doesn’t exactly help the cause of Liberalism for the most reactionary backward-looking party in the race to win in Rochester. I know some are hoping that UKIP will act as a siphon for Tory votes in the General Election and let us in by the back door, as the Referendum Party did in a few places in 1997, but that is very short term thinking. I don’t want to live in the sort of intolerant, narrow minded, aggressive Daily Mail type Britain that Farage and his ilk represent.

  • Stevan Rose 16th Nov '14 - 3:10am

    In the recent US Elections, 30 members of Congress were elected with no opposition and 40 more had no major party opposition. Sounds like a much bigger problem than us not putting up council candidates. If we don’t have a chance I see no value in wasting time, money, and shoe leather pursuing such seats. I wonder if there are seats where Tories or Labour choose not to run.

  • Even where the local party isn’t moribund it often isn’t inclusive.

    I ploughed a virtual lone furrow as a Lib Dem activist and candidate in the ward where I live, when I gave up nobody in the local party seemed that bothered.

    There certainly wasn’t any serious attempt to keep me on board.

    All the work I did was abandoned.

    Yes divisions locally were a factor but the wider party seemed unwilling and incapable of dealing with them.

    Bulmershe ward is in the Reading East constituency.

    Gareth Epps came a strong second there last time, in the next General Election I can see a slip to fourth place.

    That is sad.

  • Stevan Rose wrote:

    “In the recent US Elections, 30 members of Congress were elected with no opposition and 40 more had no major party opposition.”

    The reason why the Republicans often choose not to stand candidates in strongly Democrat Congressional districts is because they do not wish to encourage Democrats to come out and vote against Republicans in parallel Senate races.

    Steve Comer wrote:

    “It doesn’t exactly help the cause of Liberalism for the most reactionary backward-looking party in the race to win in Rochester.”

    I’m not so sure. UKIP supporters are a mix of two overlapping cohorts: (1) those who genuinely believe that the 1950s were wonderful, hate foreigners and gays, and want to hang and flog people and bring back the press gang; and (2) those of limited intellect who simply wish to register a protest vote. I see no evidence that UKIP has succeeded in shifting public opinion in favour of the things I list above. Indeed, opinion research seems to indicate that public support for those things is at a historic low. I consider that a far more deadly threat to liberal values is a majority Conservative government. So I take the view that anything that splits the right-wing vote (and thereby makes a majority Conservative government less likely) is good for liberal values.

    I won’t be celebrating a UKIP victory in Rochester, but I will be enjoying the spectacle of civil war on the right of British politics. Long may it continue!

  • I think that’s our second lowest vote share in Queen Edith’s since well before 2010 and quite a bit down on 2013 and 14 (if the County divisions are still on the same boundaries in Cambridge).

    A win is a win is a win – but not recognising the warning signs is a dangerous and oft-repeated error of Lib Dem groups. I can think of one group who had very poor results in 2011 but because of the way the seats up for election fell out kidded themselves they were actually doing fairly well – 2012 came as a very big shock!

  • Stevan Rose 16th Nov ’14 – 3:10am
    Some points in answer to your comment —
    1) politics and elections in the USA may have a superficial similarity to those in the UK but it is a very different system of “democracy”. In one election battle in one US state this month the cost of TV election attack ads was well over $100 million. A bit different from putting up a candidate in a local council by-election in this country where the minimum cost is nil, all you need is sufficient organisation to get nomination papers signed.
    2) reasons for putting up a Liberal Democrat candidate even when we know we are not going to win include keeping faith with those people who would vote Liberal Democrat and nothing else, voting is a habit and keeping that habit amongst our most loyal supporters is important. If we are ever going to rebuild the party from the disaster of today we will need to start putting up candidates in all sorts of places where we will to win this time, the next time or the time after that; repairing the damage done by the existing leadership will take a lot of commitment and more than five minutes.

    3) There is huge value in spending time, money, and shoe leather pursuing all seats. It is not waste, it is investment in the future. We need to re-build the party not engage in a downward spiral of withdrawal from elections. Re-building will be easier once the chief reasons for the present disaster are removed.

  • Leekliberal 16th Nov '14 - 7:05pm

    Steve Comer 15th Nov ’14 – 1:35pm… says ‘Of course they’ll find in time that the Green Party is illiberal, authoritarian, and has no economic policy that can deliver anything for them.’ The Green Party are also incompetent! It’s Brighton Council, the one place where they matter at all that gives the lie to the myth that they could organise the proverbial drinking session in a brewery! Link below – Let’s spread the news!

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