ALDC By-election review 2nd November

Three by-elections took place over the country last night with Lib Dem candidates spreading the word and standing in all by-elections. A quiet night saw a Lib Dem hold and a couple of tough results.

South Gloucestershire UA, Dodington

LD Louise Harris 693 [49.3%; +8.4%]
Con 554 [39.4%; +16.8%]
Lab 158 [11.2%; -1.6%]
[UKIP 920 [23.7%; -23.7%]

Turnout 25%

Louise Harris and the South Gloucestershire Lib Dems ran a great campaign to hold a seat in a close battle with the Conservatives. With UKIP not standing, a large proportion of votes were up for grabs and Louise and the team put in a great shift to gain 8.4% of the vote share. A great showing in an area that has lots of potential for a liberal future!

Kirklees MB, Denby Dale

LD Alison Baskeyfield 289 [7.4%; +4.6%]
Con 1689 [43.0%; -4.2%]
Lab 1834 [46.7%; +3.8%]
Green 116 [3.0%; -4.2%]

Turnout 29.86%

In what was always bound to be an uphill battle, the Kirklees Lib Dems and candidate Alison Baskeyfield put on a spirited campaign to spread the Liberal word. The hard work of the campaign was beneficial with Baskeyfield gaining the largest swing in the election of +4.6% and moving the Liberal Democrats into the position of the third party in the ward.

Newham LB, Boleyn

LD Arunasalam Pirapaharan 83 [3.6%; +3.6%]
Con 327 [14.2%; -3.5%]
Lab 1725 [74.8%; 2.8%]
Green 172 [7.5%; -2.9%]

Turnout 23.5%

An election in a Labour safe seat was always going to be a difficult battle but our thanks go to Newham Lib Dems and candidate Arunasalam Pirapaharan for putting on an admirable campaign and displaying the Liberal values.

Next week there are 4 by-elections with 4 Lib Dem candidates, good luck to all and keep up the good work.

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.

See you next week!

* ALDC is the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners

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This entry was posted in Council by-elections.


  • Tony Greaves 3rd Nov '18 - 4:13pm

    It’s called the Coalition, David. Plus the collapse of the party organisation in the Colne Valley constituency.

  • Andrew McCaig 4th Nov '18 - 3:07pm

    Actually David, Denby Dale is in Dewsbury constituency these days.. I don’t think any significant campaign has been fought there since long before the coalition….

  • Andrew McCaig 4th Nov '18 - 3:30pm

    I am not a National LD postholder David, but I do know that a great deal of money was spent to come a fairly distant 2nd in 2010.
    Denby Dale was in Wakefield constituency from 1997 to 2010 btw so none of that money was spent there..
    We still have more councillors in Colne Valley constituency that any other in Kirklees of course. But it is not so long since we were the largest group and running the Council so you are quite correct to point out the collapse in our fortunes.
    In Denby Dale I am not sure we have ever had a councillor in the current ward but we do have a good local candidate and an intention to develop.

  • Andrew McCaig 4th Nov '18 - 4:16pm

    Meanwhile, I was at the Yorks and Humber regional conference yesterday, and the mood was upbeat. Good progress in Hull and Sheffield last May, and every chance of regaining at least Hallam at the next election. I grew up in Sheffield Hallam and my father was Chairman (chairs were only for sitting on in those days…) of the Sheffield Liberals before he died in 1978. His whole life saw only decline of the Party he loved, but he never gave up. He celebrated the localised successes of the likes of Richard Wainwright and stood in hopeless council by-elections. He never dreamed that Liberals might run Sheffield Council or have an MP in Sheffield Hallam.
    We cannot undo the mistakes of the coalition, just as we cannot undo the mistakes of the Liberals in the 1920s. I am confident we will recover more quickly this time, but we have to be patient and keep fighting.
    In Kirklees this year we stopped the rot in Almondbury, established a new Councillor and have every chance of making net gains across Kirklees next May. People are much more prepared to vote for us at local level that they were two years ago. The immediate future is one of turmoil and anything could happen..

  • David Evans 4th Nov '18 - 5:23pm

    Andrew, I think you misunderstand what David is saying. We all know that ‘We cannot undo the mistakes of the coalition’, but what we can do and what we have never done is acknowledge and learn from those mistakes. That we have never done (although some pretend that we have). The only mistake Nick made (according to him) was to sit in the wrong place in the Hose of Commons. Vince did a great job in BIS for the country, but did nothing for the future of Liberal Democracy and in 2014 when the problems were finally clear even in London and he was needed, he was far, far away in China. Others have said it was all inevitable from the moment all the votes were counted in 2010.

    Not one has ever said “I (or even We) got it totally wrong”.

    As we all know the Lib Dems exist, to build and safeguard a free open and fair society but you don’t do that by sacrificing, year after year, the hard work of generations of councillors, activists and members all over the country, so that after five years of propping up the Conservatives, they can stab you in the back and destroy the party you were elected to a senior position in.

    Indeed every regional and national conference I have been to has been upbeat, but equally I can say is that I have not been to a party conference local or national in the last eight years that was allowed to face up to the realities of our crisis, and still we pretend we don’t need to admit our mistakes, learn form the past and change.

    From 2012 onwards we were continuously told that “we will recover” and “anything could happen” and yes anything could happen. We could be near annihilated and we were, there could be a referendum on EU membership and we could lose it and we did, and there could be the most disfunctional government, and the most useless left wing opposition in history and we could still be totally ignored nationally and we are.

    You say, we have to be patient and anything could happen. I say, we haven’t got the time to be patient – we leave the EU on 29th March and after that, what reason will be left to vote Lib Dem nationally other than as a protest? We spent 50 years getting out of that.

  • Clearly if you are going from 23% in 2010 to 8% in 2015/17 (virtually) every seat is going to be difficult.

    Looking up Colne Valley on Wikipedia I think it though fair to say that the difficulties started when we failed to win it for Richard Wainwright’s successor in 1987 and since then it has been essentially a Tory/Labour marginal – with us in third place from 1992 until 2005.

    It also appears that Richard Wainwright was helped to get into a close second place, putting him in a position to then win it by the 1963 parliamentary by-election and also the long 5 month campaign for the by-election.

  • nvelope2003 4th Nov '18 - 6:07pm

    It is difficult to make comparisons with similar parties elsewhere because the word Liberal or Liberal Democrat means something completely different in different places but if we assume that it has normally meant a moderate sometimes non socialist centre left party then that sort of party is in decline everywhere and voters are moving to authoritarian parties who are anti immigrant and in favour of tough law and order policies. A very wise friend who lives in a country where that sort of ruler has come to power tells me that many people have lost faith in the pleasant looking intelligent reasonable politician because they seem not to have delivered the goods when in power. He was very opposed to the change but now says that the new ruler has reversed the problems with drugs and crime and people like it who opposed it initially.
    We might see some signs of how the electorate views that sort of politician next week.
    There is not much doubt that many of those who voted to leave the EU would favour anyone who is against the sort of policies the Liberal Democrats advocate. The problem for the Liberal Democrats is that not many people really knew what they stood for and when they found out they stopped supporting them. I have heard of people who voted for them because they thought they were anti EU and anti immigrant. The ballot is secret.

  • Alex Macfie 4th Nov '18 - 6:09pm

    David Evans: “We leave the EU on 29th March ” after which Brexit will remain an issue. You assume once we leave the EU it will suddenly cease to be an issue, and everyone will accept Brexit as a settled matter. This is just plain rubbish. Whatever happens, Brexit will continue to be an issue for at least the next 10 years. If we leave with or without a deal, it will still be an issue, because the UK will plunge into chaos which will be blamed on Brexit. If the process is suspended (perhaps to accommodate a referendum), then obviously it will still be an issue. If Brexit is cancelled it will still be an issue, because the Brexit camp will continue to campaign on it.
    Your assumption is wrong, as is your insistence on focusing on our recent past, as if this is the only thing that matters about us. It is not. How to campaign for the politics of now and the future is more important.

  • David Evans 4th Nov '18 - 7:23pm

    Alex, I admire your optimism, but Brexit will only remain an issue for people like you. For most of the country, it will be either “Hurrah” or “OK we’re here now, lets’s make the best of it.” Indeed for many in the EU it will be “Thank goodness we have got rid of those troublesome Brits.”

    I’m sorry to disillusion you, but if we don’t stop Brexit, and I am increasingly certain our leaders have no idea how to stop it, after 29th March it will be gone and our one USP with it.

    I am afraid as has been proved over many years, it is your assumptions that are wrong, as is your insistence on ignoring our recent past, as if continuing to ignore it will lead to our party’s fortunes turning the corner, because we are right and learning lessons from it are strictly verbotten. Without learning we will remain stuck in the past, you will still be supporting and campaigning on lost causes and our future and that free open and fair society will be lost for generations and possibly for ever.

  • Andrew McCaig 4th Nov '18 - 7:40pm

    We did well for years after the Iraq war because we were right on that issue. At least 25% of the British public are very upset about Brexit. If we are the only Party (bar the Greens and the Nats) who are right about Brexit we will get the credit for that as well.
    I do agree that having a Leader unencumbered by the coalition years who would say “sorry, we were wrong” would help us a bit. However I think the vast majority of voters have forgiven us for the coalition now, and our problem is being seen as irrelevant and ignored by the media. (There is plenty of evidence for this in actual votes in actual elections in places where we are not seen as irrelevant). The ONLY issue that the media pay any attention to us about is Brexit, so we just have to keep on about that.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Nov '18 - 7:07am

    David Evans: I’m not ignoring the past, I just disagree with you on how to face up to it and learn from it. In particular, the idea that there is any quick fix available by making a grand gesture of disowning the Coalition years in entirety is just wrong. The party would be ridiculed for such an announcement — assuming people notice it at all. There is no quick fix of any kind for us, only hard work to rebuild the party. And you think I’m optimistic?

    I agree with Andrew McCaig and Martin. I’m fortunate enough to live in one of those places where the Lib Dems are still relevant. I did come across a few Labour supporters who said they could never vote for us again because of the Coalition. For such people, I suspect we are beyond redemption, and no apology from our leadership is going to change their minds about us. For the rest, it’s just not an issue. Brexit was an issue. The dreadful local Tory administration was also an issue. The Coalition didn’t come up, except from those who’ll never forgive us for it.

    I really don’t get your contradictory positions that come 29 March, voters will forget about Brexit as an issue, and yet are supposed to have an elephantine memory of the Coalition and are just waiting for us to apologise for it before they’ll flock to us again. It’s not how politics works. Brexit will continue to be an issue because the fallout from it will affect everyone’s lives for decades.

  • David Evans 5th Nov '18 - 10:43am

    Andrew, I agree with you in part, but I’m afraid the messages I am getting on the doorstep, don’t accord at all with some of your beliefs, particularly when you say “If we are the only Party (bar the Greens and the Nats) who are right about Brexit we will get the credit for that as well.”

    Firstly because Labour are playing a clever game here (much cleverer than our simplistic game plan) of appear to be on both sides and when it goes horribly wrong blame the Conservatives. They and the Nats will gain much more electorally from any Brexit fallout than we ever could.

    Secondly, because as you say yourself, “our problem is being seen as irrelevant and ignored by the media.” Even though we have a clear view of Brexit, most people do not see us as being relevant to it – or anything else.

    As you say, the one thing we all know is that where we can get noticed, we still can make an impact. Hence at local elections where we have or make a presence, we can make a gain in a by election. However, we all know that winning new seats in a May election is harder (outside help is much less likely), parliamentary by-elections are a whole order of magnitude bigger and general elections in seats without a history is virtually impossible.

    One thing we have to realise is that expecting Brexit will somehow carry on after next march as a major issue that will somehow provide us with a route back to relevance for even a small proportion of our past voters is really just hoping something will turn up.

    As Martin says – All opposition parties will be intensively critical of whatever botched Brexit transpires. The difficulty for Liberal Democrats will be that other parties will be more effective at grabbing media attention with their cover version of our tune.” The only bit of that I would disagree with is that for most people, it isn’t our tune, but the Nats’ tune in Scotland and Labour’s in England. Even worse, their approach will give them somewhere else to go post Brexit (Nats: We want independence; Labour: The Conservatives have trashed it, vote for us).

    I don’t see our leaders having any message from the Lib Dems as part of a post Brexit electoral strategy.

  • David Evans 5th Nov '18 - 12:14pm

    Alex, I’m afraid you are misconstruing my points again. If you read my post correctly, there is no mention of the word apology or disowning. We are well past the point where any apology would have an effect on those whose trust we betrayed in coalition.

    Nick and the party had a chance to do so in May 2014 after the euro election fiasco, but he refused to go. Tim had his chance as the New kid on the block immediately after he was elected as leader to draw a line under coalition, but instead chose to carry on the same path, and Vince as a key figure in the coalition years squandered our last chance after he became leader in 2017.

    That hope for some sort of redemption and recovery is gone now, and those Lib Dems (old and new) who preferred to pretend it would all go away to avoid facing up to the consequences of their actions (or inaction) got their wish. The problem is that our party (and our country) is still having to face up to the real consequences – Brexit, the continuing Universal Credit fiasco, the resurgence of extreme right power over the Conservative party, Corbyn’s version of extreme Labour – AND STILL MOST PEOPLE THINK WE ARE IRRELEVANT!!

    The problem we have, and I am afraid it is very prevalent, is that so many Lib Dems choose to believe that all that is needed is to carry on as we have done and it will all come right – eventually, inevitably, – because we are right and because we work hard and so it must come to be.

    Hence we have comments like “We have to be patient and keep fighting” but that is nothing like enough – what is our national strategy?; “We do have a good local candidate and an intention to develop” so do most by-elections, but develop from 7% to 40% without a change in our national profile?; “Anything could happen” indeed, but what are we going to do nationally to make it happen?; “Brexit will continue to be an issue for at least the next 10 years” but it will be on no benefit whatsoever unless we can get ourselves noticed nationally; “There is no quick fix of any kind for us, only hard work to rebuild the party.” – Hard work locally is nowhere near enough, we need a real national strategy to get us noticed; As you say “It’s not how politics works.”

  • nvelope2003 5th Nov '18 - 12:54pm

    Re the above. If the Liberal Democrats had any policies that were attractive to voters and were not being proposed by the other parties then they would gain support but they don’t and they won’t. Their support for the EU does not appeal to voters because the EU does not appeal to them either. It is something that is for most people a remote and boring matter. Acres of space has been devoted to this issue and it is boring the voters to death. Even here reader numbers are falling but anyone who suggests anything new is ignored or insulted and their posts blocked on the grounds they have sent too many while the favoured ones can send as many as they like. It is too late to wake up now. We need a complete change.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Nov '18 - 7:33pm

    David Evans: It seems to me that you are the one misconstruing things. If the situation for us were as dire as you say it is, then quite frankly we might as well just disband as it’s not worth carrying on. You are too fixated on the past, and you sound like those Labour left-wingers who go on and on about Blair all the time, when actually the number of voters who care about the figure who has long left the political scene is actually fairly small, and the youngest voters weren’t even born when he took office. Likewise with the Coalition; yes, there are those who still hold a grudge against us over that, and who are unlikely to vote for us for a long time, but they are mainly ideological left-wingers who voted for us in the early-mid 2000s as a protest against the Iraq War, and I wouldn’t really expect them to vote for us while Labour is led by someone like Corbyn. The rest of the electorate are not impressed by this kind of navel-gazing and looking back at the party’s past. They want answers for the political situation of NOW. And, whether you like it or not, this mainly means Brexit, and you are flat wrong about its relevance after March 2019. In any case, we are hardly “carrying on
    Regarding building a national profile, the issue of media ignoring us and us being perceived as irrelevant is nothing to do with our national message as such. No national message is going to change that in the short term. We are “irrelevant” because most voters don’t realise we exist, not because they have an issue with our message (how can they if they don’t know we exist?) The most effective way to remind people we still exist is to campaign locally and win elections locally. I don’t pretend it’s going to be easy or quick. So I reject your accusation that I’m being “optimistic” or complacent or refusing to come to terms with anything. And I utterly reject your council of despair, particularly as you have been proven wrong about our prospects in my particular patch.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Nov '18 - 8:49pm

    David Evans: I don’t think Labour’s game on Brexit is particularly “clever”. Blowing two conflicting dog-whistles aimed at different groups of dogs cannot work in the long run, as both groups will eventually work out what is going on. Labour may hope that voters will blame the Conservatives when Brexit goes horribly wrong (as it surely will) but it runs the risk of voters blaming Labour for allowing it to happen. Napoleon’s maxim doesn’t apply when the enemy is hurting your own people.

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