ALDC by-election report – 25 October 2018

11 by-elections took place last night with 10 Lib Dem candidates standing. A great night saw 3 Lib Dem gains in marginal seats, and some very closely run battles in others.

Mendip DC, Wells St. Thomas – LD Gain from Con
LD Tom Ronan 594 [48.8%; +4.6%]
Con 493 [40.5%; +5.2%]
Lab 131 [10.8%, +10.8%]
[Green 546 [20.6%; -20.6%]]

Wells City Council, Wells St. Thomas – LD Gain from Con
LD Caroline McKinnell 605 [49.5%; +24.5%]
Con 489 [40.0%; +20.9%]
Lab 128 [10.5%; +10.5%]
[Green 712 [13.5%; -13.5%]]
[Ind 786 [14.9%; -14.9%]]
[Ind 759 [14.3%; -14.3%]]
[Ind 702 [13.3%; -13.3%]]

A great night in Wells saw 2 fabulous gains for the Lib Dems from the Conservatives. In the Mendip District Council election, Tom Ronan and the Mendip Lib Dems put in a great fight to beat the Conservatives by 101 votes and take another seat on the District Council. Not 1 but 2 gains took place overnight in Wells with Caroline McKinnell also winning in the Wells City Council election by over 100 votes. Another set of gains for the Lib Dems highlights a continued resurgence and a great set of campaigns put on by the local party, congratulations!

Hertfordshire CC, Three Rivers Rural – LD Gain from Con
LD Phil Williams 1846 [53.4%; +9.5%]
Con 1315 [38.0%; -9.0%]
Lab 144 [4.2%; -0.1%]
Green 68 [2.0%; -1.1%]
UKIP 86 [2.5%; +0.6%]

Another fantastic result took place in the Three Rivers Rural by-election with Phil Williams and the Hertfordshire taking another gain from the Conservatives. A vote share increase of 9.5% highlights what a great night it was for Williams, with the Conservatives losing 9% of their votes from last time. A great night and a great success for the Lib Dems in Hertfordshire, let’s hope for some momentum from this fabulous result!

Suffolk CC, Bosmere – Con Hold
Con 747 [45.5%; -0.5%]
LD Steve Phillips 726 [44.2%; +5.4%]
Lab 168 [10.2%; +2.4%]
[Green 185 [7.3%; -7.3%]]

An extremely closely fought battle in Bosmere saw Suffolk Lib Dems and candidate Steve Phillips lose out by just 21 votes to the Conservatives. The hard work of the campaign team saw the vote share increase by 5.4% and narrow the gap to the local Conservatives to just 1.3%, signaling a shift towards the Lib Dems and establishing the Lib Dems as a strong opposition in the local area. A great fight and a close result but congratulations to all involved!

Sutton LB, Belmont – Con Hold
Con 1328 [46.7%; -9.6%]
LD Dean Juster 1069 [37.6%; +10.7%]
Lab 303 [10.7%; -6.1%]
Green 63 [2.2%; + 2.2%]
UKIP 50 [1.8%; +1.8%]
CPA 30 [1.1%; +1.1%]

A great result in Sutton last night saw Dean Juster increase his vote share by 10.7% to close the gap in a Conservative seat. With a 9.6% loss of vote share for the Conservatives, the night was a great success for the Lib Dems and shows a win for the party despite not gaining the seat. A close battle is expected for next time!

Dorset CC, Ferndown – Con Hold
Con 1878 [61.3%; -5.4%]
Lib Dem Matthew Coussell 647 [21.1%; +10.2%]
UKIP 540 [17.6%: 0.5%]
[Lab 244 [5.3%; -5.3%]]

East Dorset DC, Ferndown Central – Con Hold
Con 899 [59.9%; +4%]
LD Matthew Coussell 355 [23.7%; +23.7%]
UKIP 246 [16.4%; -11.9%]
[Lab 744 [15.7%; -15.7%]]

A busy night for Matthew Coussell in Ferndown paid off for the local Lib Dems. In a traditional safe Conservative area, Coussell increased vote share by 10.2% in the Dorset CC by-election and 23.7% in the East Dorset DC by-election. Finishing a good second, the result shows big gains for the Liberal Democrats in the area which is always a positive, thanks to Matthew and the local team for representing our liberal values.

Elsewhere there were tricky nights for the Liberal Democrats in our other by-elections. Big thanks to our candidates for standing, representing us all and making sure the Liberal Democrats are on the ballot.

Basingstoke and Deane BC, Norden – Lab Hold
Lab 925 [68.2%; +2.6%]
Con 288 [21.2%; -2.5%]
Ind 80 [5.9%; +3.9%]
LD Zoe Rogers 64 [4.7%; -0.2%]

South Derbyshire DC, Linton – Con Hold
Con 623 [62.5%; +23.8%]
Lab 326 [32.7%; +2.8%]
LD Lorraine Karen Johnson 48 [4.8%; +0.7%]
[UKIP 726 [27.2%; -27.2%]]

North Lanarkshire UA, Coatbridge South – Lab Hold
Lab 1355 [41.5%; +11.6%]
SNP 1343 [41.1%; +1.7%]
Con 492 [15.1%; -0.6%]
Green 47 [1.4%; +1.4%]
UKIP 14 [0.4%; +0.4%]
LD Christopher Wilson 13 [0.4%; +0.4%]
[Ind 311 [8.8%; -8.8%]]
[Ind 216 [6.1%; -6.1%]]

Next week we have 3 by-elections all with Lib Dem candidates!

If you have a spare hour you can find contact details of who to ring to help out on our website.

Or why not donate to the ALDC Fighting Fund so we can give more grants to local teams to help us win more by-elections.

We wish all candidates the best of luck and see you next week!

* ALDC is the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Alisdair McGregor 26th Oct '18 - 2:44pm

    Special Thanks should be made to Zoe Rogers, Lorraine Johnson and Chris Wilson for flying the flag for the party in difficult places. It’s comparatively easy to run in seats that are competitive, or where there are long-term strategic reasons to fight even in a losing cause, but one of the really difficult jobs in Politics is the business of fighting in impossible seats, and we should never forget to be grateful to those people who put themselves forward for the good of the party in those places.

  • Having done the thing with standing in a seat where we’re going nowhere, not just now, but in any reasonable future, I know that it’s a thankless task, so I want to join in on Alisdair’s thanks to Zoe Rogers, Lorraine Johnson and Chris Wilson for doing it – taking that on for themselves.

    If they’d like to join in singing “Losing Deposits”, then they’ll be very welcome at any future Glee Club, and I’ll happily buy them a beverage of their choice; they’ve earned it.

  • Mick Taylor 26th Oct '18 - 4:23pm

    in 1987 I stood in Pontefract and Castleford, where they don’t count the Labour vote, they weigh it. I only saved my deposit because the percentage had been reduced from 12.5% to 5%. The returning officer made no pretence to neutrality and told me when I handed in my papers that I had zero chance and Labour would walk it. There was a huge table for the Labour vote, two small tables for the Conservative and my vote and a small card table for Red Wedge. It really was ‘spot the Liberal vote’. Three fond memories from that evening. One the BBC reported that Simon Hughes had been defeated only to have to retract this later. Two, the returning officer turned off the microphone after the Red Wedge candidate had been arranging the room for 10 minutes and Three, I produced the smallest election address of my life, A5, (it’s surprising how much you can get in if you try) in which I put a 100% accurate account of my politics including unilateral nuclear disarmament.
    So yes, it’s lonely out there in non-LibDem territory, but you have nothing to lose and nothing to prove so you can campaign exactly as you want to because every vote is a bonus.

  • Mick Taylor 26th Oct '18 - 4:24pm

    Haranguing not arranging. Bloody predictive text!

  • John Marriott 26th Oct '18 - 5:22pm

    @David Raw
    It’s called ‘showing the flag’, as Alisdair put it. ‘Giving people the chance to vote Lib Dem’ is often mentioned in these columns. That said, it’s pleasing to see that, in areas where there is a strong Lib Dem profile, the party can still win. As you know, you and I are at one on most matters, the flag wavers being no exception.

  • As last (?) week the commentators were measuring success or failure by the percentage increase rather than the percentage POINT increase – Christopher Wilson shares the best result of the night with Matthew Coussell on infinite – never I suspect to be beaten !

  • While I am a staunch supporter of “always stand a candidate” I recognise that every Local Party needs a by-election strategy and if they haven’t got one the Region needs to have one that meets the situation. If you twist somebody’s arm to get them to stand (e.g. because they live there or because they can be the subject of a credible mini-biog in the local paper) you have a minimal moral responsibility to knock on some doors or deliver a bit of paper somewhere or make a few phone calls.

  • Stephen Booth 27th Oct '18 - 7:51am

    Agree with Geoff Reid. While all areas will have moribund wards where at local election time we have to run paper candidates, by elections are different: they’re a great opportunity for development. I have always believed that there is no safe council seat. With the right candidate and effort anywhere is winnable given time.

  • Roger Billins 27th Oct '18 - 10:05am

    What amazes me is the robustness of the Tory vote. We have a shambolic, divided Government and they are still ahead in all the opinion polls and manage to hold most of the seats which they have previously one, week in week out. Is is that people who might vote Lib Dem are scared of letting Labour “in” or is something else ?

  • Sue Sutherland 27th Oct '18 - 1:16pm

    I think there has to be a lot of negative voting intention going on, given how low May and Corbyn are rated as leaders. As a consequence we are being squeezed. I don’t know if the party has been able to do any polling on this?

  • @Roger Billins

    If you look at the detailed figures of the opinion polls then it is highly split on leave/remain lines. And most local elections see most people voting on their national preferences.

    I haven’t looked at the detailed figures and it obviously varies and sub-samples are subject to greater error but something like 70%/75% of Leave voters are supporting the Tories which gives them some 30% to begin with and about 25% of Remain voters – tops them up to around 40%.

    Obviously they face the risk that Brexiteers might feel any deal is a sell-out and the possible resurgence of UKIP. Equally they need to hang on to the Remainers that have stayed with them.

    Labour face the mirror image. 70%/75% of Remainers support them. They are a bit behind (in most polls) because they face greater competition – they have 3 competing remainer parties – us, Greens and SNP/Welsh Nats. And we are more credible than UKIP!

  • paul barker 27th Oct '18 - 4:58pm

    It seems to me that there a lot of similarities between British Politics now & the way it was in the early 1980s & the situation then looked frozen too. The creation of The SDP & the formation of The Alliance tranformed politics in 3 Months.
    That could happen again but its not in our hands, we just have to build alliances where we can & keep on plugging away.

  • John Marriott 27th Oct '18 - 5:28pm

    @Roger Billins
    You should come and live in Lincolnshire, as I have done for the last 40 odd years. Being a conservative for many isn’t espousing a political philosophy. It’s more like a way of life. Despite what enthusiasts would have you believe, ours is not a liberal society but a conservative one with a small ‘c’.

    Back in the 1980s our small band of relatively young activists managed to make our mark around here in local elections by sheer hard work. At one time we held all five district council seats, had a majority of town council seats and held both county council seats. Mind you it often felt largely like a case of running just to stand still. I always compare our campaigning to weeding the garden. We drove back the weeds; but, as soon as we slackened our efforts, as we did due to a variety of reasons, those weeds (Tories) have just grown back.

  • I have the following observations:

    The Three Rivers result is particularly impressive. We have won in this part of Hertfordshire in years gone by, but never by very big margins. 53.4% is back to pre-coalition levels of support, and is about as good as it is ever likely to get in a prosperous outer suburban area. Getting the Labour vote down to 4.2% is very good indeed. No-one thus far has spotted that part of this division is in the St Albans Parliamentary constituency, a top target for our party. So doubly good news.

    In Bosmere, the Labour vote went up by more than the Tory majority. Three Rivers has proved that Labour can be squeezed down to rock bottom even in the present climate.

    Wells worries me. In the South-West we have to be winning the urban wards by far larger margins than this to offset the Tory strength in the villages. Maybe there was a local reason why our support was depressed here (such as the defection of the previous councillor)? Did not Chris Clarke win the Wells county division with something like 60%?

    Belmont is exceptionally impressive. I think we might have got at least one councillor elected here 20 or 30 years ago, but Belmont has always been a strongly Tory ward. At least some recovery in Sutton & Cheam might be expected.

    Ferndown reflects the very strong level of support that the Tories enjoy among the over-65s, especially those who have a little bit of money. There is probably not much that we can do about it other than to stress the Tories’ continuing untrustworthiness on the NHS. However, we did win the 1993 Christchurch by-election with 62.2%.

    Basingstoke is a dreadful result. Getting 4.7% somewhere so close to Winchester and Eastleigh is appalling, and a reminder of the perilous terrain on which our party stands.

    Linton is not a lot better. There was a time when we would get 15% at the very least in a semi-rural ward like that without delivering a single leaflet.

    Coatbridge South should perhaps be seen in the context of the 1982 Coatbridge & Airdrie byelection where the then newly created Liberal/SDP Alliance polled 8.2% (while being in the 20s in the national opinion polls). The Orange vote in Airdrie got the Tories to 26.2%, which was actually down on 1979. Labour might have “won” last week’s contest, but there is still an awful lot that Labour has to do to beat the SNP in these former Scottish heartlands.

  • Pieter-Paul Barker 27th Oct '18 - 7:11pm

    Regarding robustness of Tory vote, I put it down to wall-to-wall coverage (good and bad) on tv every day, national newspapers every day etc. Other parties hardly exist by comparison. Very few people will vote for parties they never hear anything about or just get one leaflet from.

  • David Evans 27th Oct '18 - 7:48pm

    Indeed John, There are still so many new and quite a few old Lib Dems out there who, even after eight years of catastrophic decline, still think that there are Lib Dem supporters out there who for whatever reason aren’t quite ready to vote for us right now. The fact is that too many have come to believe that because Liberal Democracy is so obviously right, that it must be an aberration for people not to see the sheer power of our logic and vote for us.

    Our generation of Liberals and Lib Dems learned very quickly that was not true and only overcame it by gut crunching hard work over decades, ward by ward in council after council. Those who didn’t learn it gave up or got into the party bureaucracy instead.

    However, those who were prepared to fight and fight and fight again got stuck in and ultimately got us to around 5,000 councillors working and proving that the Lib Dems could make a real difference in local communities, and we had enough people who could see that difference and we won the one big chance for our MPs to prove to the British public that the Lib Dems deserved that chance in parliament.

    Unfortunately after five years under Nick, all that was proved to the British public was the one thing they didn’t want was to give the Lib Dems another chance in parliament. Over five years all the decades of hard work building up our support was squandered and those who are still amazed by the other two parties’ risilience and why things aren’t working out for us (although it is always just around the corner for so many) simply don’t want to understand why we are in this mess. Even worse though is that most of them would do anything other than face up to the realities of our failure, realise that it is themselves who have to change and stop just trotting out that a golden dawn is just out of sight.

    As Paul Barker says we have to keep plugging away locally – that is our job, but we must also press our national leadership to find something to raise our profile across the country (and not just in niche Lib Dem causes like Brexit and LGBT rights) in order to help those of us fighting on the front line. That is their job and they need to start doing it – quickly.

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