ALDC’s by-election round-up: Midlands win and a bad month for Tories and SNP

ALDC christmas pressieThose lovely people at ALDC have done us a by-election round-up for last week. 

Last Thursday saw the Liberal Democrats gain Chadsmead ward on Lichfield DC. Councillor Marion Bland took 36% of the vote and returned Liberal Democrats to Lichfield Council for the first time since 2011. The Lib Dems first gained a seat in the two member ward in 2007 but the Tories took both in 2011.

The by-election saw the Conservatives drop 22% of their vote and slump into last place after their councillor was disqualified for not attending meetings. UKIP stood for the first time in the ward and came third on 18.8%. Labour saw their vote drop slightly retaining second place.

Staffordshire MEP Phil Bennion said it was a “morale-boosting victory” and the start of a Lib Dem “fightback” in the county:

This result shows that where we work hard, people are now prepared to vote Lib Dem again.

There were also by-elections last week in Moray where the SNP failed to win a Council by-election for the nineteenth time in a row after an Independent retained the seat. The Lib Dems held their own in Heanor East, Amber Valley DC with 4.4% of the vote; Labour won back the seat sharing the residual BNP vote with the Tories.

The previous week the Southend-on-Sea ALDC group members were just 55 votes away from claiming West Leigh from the Tories. The local Liberal Democrat team ran a good campaign and had lots of support from outside but unfortunately just missed out after a heavy hail storm in the evening and a very wet morning. Credit though should be paid to Lib Dem candidate Chris Bailey who worked on the campaign from his hospital bed after an operation the day before the by-election.

January saw the Liberal Democrats, Labour, UKIP and Independents each gain a seat to add to their tally of councillors. But it must be a month to forget for the Conservatives who lost four seats in total in St Edmundsbury, Tonbridge and Malling, Trafford and Lichfield.

For all the detailed results see the ALDC elections page.
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30 Comments

  • Paul In Twickenham 7th Feb '14 - 12:56am

    Can we assume that Lib Dem Towers is sorting out the excuses for what looks like next week’s disaster in the parliamentary by-election in Wythenshawe and Sale East? Yes, it’s just a poll commissioned by Michael Ashcroft, but if it is correct then there is a realistic prospect of the Liberal Democrats dropping from 22% to a lost deposit.

    I don’t think the “natural territory” argument will wash. Nor will the “squeeze” argument since the Conservatives are haemorrhaging support to UKIP almost as fast as the Lib Dems are losing it to Labour.

    The only thing to do would be to hold your hands up and say “we lost three quarters of our previous support because the people in that area thought we empathized with their aspirations and concerns (what Nietzsche disparagingly referred to as “mitleid”), but our leadership have given the impression of being pale blue Tories so it’s hardly surprising that our support has collapsed in such spectacular fashion. But don’t worry, we are confident that come May 2015 everything will work out fine. We have not the slightest shred of evidence to support this view. But we’re sure of it anyway”.

  • For goodness sake, we try a put a gloss on this and that. The reality is we are losing support left right and center, in one by election yesterday looks as if it nearly all went to UKIP!!!!
    Perhaps a real disaster in the Euros, like losing all MPs will shake us up for good. At the moment there is no way forward.

  • “The reality is we are losing support left right and center, in one by election yesterday looks as if it nearly all went to UKIP!!!!”

    Indeed. Yesterday’s performance was atrocious. There were three seats contested, in which the Lib Dems had strong second-place results pre-coalition (with vote shares between 28% and 40%). In the seat where they’d achieved 40% the Lib Dems didn’t bother to stand. In the second their pre-2010 vote share dropped by about 20%, leaving them fourth, and in the third – in Sheffield – the pre-coalition share dropped by about 22%, leaving them fifth.

  • paul barker 7th Feb '14 - 11:29am

    A quick look at the ALDC site shows that in the 7 contests where we stood we lost vote share in 3 & gained in 3. Labour, the main opposition gained in 2 & lost votes in 8.
    What worries me is that our constant habit of talking ourselves down is actually stopping us from standing at all, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • If we are losing support to UKIP in large numbers, then we really are in trouble as it implies that those who had voted for us were antipathetic to Liberal Democrat attitudes, outlook and principles to start with!

    Surely paul barker is right, there is a terrible danger of talking ourselves down. I think this stretches up to the leadership, who do not properly stand up for, account for and explain decisions that they have made in government (tuition fees is an example: who would defend it when those who agreed and implemented the policy do not do so?)

  • “A quick look at the ALDC site shows that in the 7 contests where we stood we lost vote share in 3 & gained in 3.”

    That is compared with the last time the seats were contested – in 2011 and 2012. It’s not surprising, considering how flat the party’s poll ratings have been since the Autumn of 2010.

    But to get an indication of how things have changed since the coalition was formed, you need to compare with results from 2010 or earlier.

  • @ Paul. I think you are right. From looking at comment on the ether –
    In Chadsmead our losing candidate in 2011 stood again and the local party pulled together and got stuck in. We took the seat and increased our vote.
    In Tendring Peter Bruff our losing candidate in 2011 defected to UKIP (presumably with canvass records) and stood in the by election for them, and the local party found it very hard to come back from that.

  • Richard Shaw 7th Feb '14 - 12:42pm

    @ Chris

    “Indeed. Yesterday’s performance was atrocious. There were three seats contested, in which the Lib Dems had strong second-place results pre-coalition (with vote shares between 28% and 40%). In the seat where they’d achieved 40% the Lib Dems didn’t bother to stand. In the second their pre-2010 vote share dropped by about 20%, leaving them fourth, and in the third – in Sheffield – the pre-coalition share dropped by about 22%, leaving them fifth.”

    Speaking as a Sheffield campaigner and candidate, and indeed someone who was at that particular count last night, the Sheffield Arbourthorne by-election result comes down to one word: Targeting.

    That ward (the seat of the Labour council leader) wasn’t a target for us this time around and our time and resources are better used elsewhere in the city where we are looking at winning seats off Labour this May. We put up a candidate to ‘fly the flag’ but we didn’t do any campaigning save for a few leftover generic leaflets here and there. Even if we had put in the same effort that we did in the Fulwood by-election last year (where we doubled our majority, got a >4% swing from Labour and pushed the Conservatives into 3rd) in 2012, a victory would still not be certain.

    This shows what happens to support where there’s no campaign – people don’t turn out to support us; Where we work (in volume, over time), we win. It would be nonsense to try to draw any national or anti-Clegg conclusions from this.

  • Richard Shaw 7th Feb '14 - 12:46pm

    Typo above – please ignore the “in 2012”; forgot to delete it.

  • Peter Watson 7th Feb '14 - 1:59pm

    @paul barker “A quick look at the ALDC site shows that in the 7 contests where we stood we lost vote share in 3 & gained in 3.” Compared to when though. The Lib Dem vote plummeted after 2010 so if you are comparing with results since then, a few up and a few down is nothing to be excited about.

  • “It would be nonsense to try to draw any national or anti-Clegg conclusions from this.”

    No matter how hard you try, there’s no getting round the fact that this was a ward in which the Lib Dems came second with 27.4% of the vote in 2010 – that was nearly 1900 votes – and came fifth with 6% of the vote yesterday – 161 votes.

    I’m sorry, but support doesn’t just evaporate to that extent for no reason. And as for not campaigning, if the party is really not bothering to campaign in a local by-election where four years ago it polled over a quarter of the vote, then that in itself says something pretty eloquent about the state of the party.

  • David Allen 7th Feb '14 - 3:39pm

    “The Lib Dems held their own …. with 4.4% of the vote”

    Held their own what? Wake?

  • Chris Manners 7th Feb '14 - 5:02pm

    “Where we work (in volume, over time), we win at least (currently) in the 70% of the country that isn’t reasonably strongly Labour-facing.”

    Simon, I used to be a medium pace swing bowler. If I’d had you standing at mid off, polishing the ball for me, I’d probably have taken about 500 test wickets.

    You’re not even competing in lots of places that are comfortably within that 70%.

  • Richard Shaw 7th Feb '14 - 5:44pm

    @Chris

    With respect, Chris, you’re wrong but I’ll put this down to a lack of knowledge of the constituency, local circumstances and perhaps Sheffield politics generally. The 2010 local election was also the general election which meant a higher turnout and a decent campaign not just in that ward but across the whole constituency. We were also not the governing party at the time so benefited from protest votes – which UKIP is getting now. As for support not evaporating for no reason… when I stood in the neighbouring ward (my first time as a candidate) in 2012 I got 463 with no campaign – down from ~1800 in 2011 when our last councillor in the ward was defeated with a decent campaign (this same councillor was elected in 2012 in a different ward, with help from myself and others – hence no campaign in the ward I was standing in).

    It’s better to lose a ward badly to focus on winning another than to have two good second places. As a local party we are growing, building excellent teams and working hard to hold and win back the losses of 2011 and 2012 in the coming years and give Sheffield the responsible and Liberal council administration it deserves.

  • “With respect, Chris, you’re wrong but I’ll put this down to a lack of knowledge of the constituency, local circumstances and perhaps Sheffield politics generally.”

    I’m making general points that don’t depend on any of those things. But never mind.

  • Judging from the above comments the message appears to be getting though. Words like appalling, disastrous and awful must spark some realistic reaction from the heirarchy, no on second thought they will just drift along and the party will drown completely like the Somerset levels. ,

  • I am happy to agree with Simon Shaw, that we should not talk down our candidates in places like Wythenshawe.

    Let’s just hope that nobody remembers what the same Simon Shaw said about Wythenshawe here in LDV only a few weeks ago. 🙂

  • “It’s better to lose a ward badly to focus on winning another than to have two good second places.”

    I will just make one more general point. We’re not talking about fighting this ward in May, when resources would have to be taken away from other elections on the same day. We’re talking about a by-election, which is traditionally a time when you can do some canvassing even in weak wards which wouldn’t normally be targeted, without detracting from target wards. Not that this is – historically – a weak ward, and the implication of your arguments seems to be that it has been targeted in the recent past. The fact that it’s been left with only a paper candidate in a by-election must say something bad about the state of the local party.

  • Simon, Shaw, for the last time I am a Liberal Democrat, a coalition supporter and send money to by elections etc. However we are in a total mess, instead of ignoring it, we should be doing something about it.

  • paul barker 8th Feb '14 - 11:59am

    Our biggest problem is not the anger of The Voters but our own low morale, partly the result of the noisy minority who opposed Coalition from the begining.
    The only Party who are doing well now are UKIP, everyone else is losing votes. In The General Election Voters will be thinking about Government & support for Protest Parties will ebb away.
    Wythenshawe is another dull Byelection, turnout will collapse, Labours share of the decreased vote will rise, UKIP will probably come 2nd & we will be squeezed.

  • Peter Watson 9th Feb '14 - 6:26pm

    @Simon Shaw “I don’t remember what I said about Wythenshawe.”
    I assume John means this: https://www.libdemvoice.org/liblink-stephen-tall-hold-tight-get-lucky-37791.html#comment-277039
    However, the only reason I bothered posting this is to make an appeal to the administrators of LibDemVoice to please improve the searching on this site so that it ignores the dynamic page content on the right hand side. John’s post piqued my curiosity, but searching for “Simon Shaw Wythenshawe” gave about 9 pages of results where John or Simon’s post above appeared before I finally found the right one. I’ve probably now made it worse as repeating that search tomorrow might generate page after page of meaningless results because of this post appearing to the right of every article!

  • Paul In Twickenham 9th Feb '14 - 7:43pm

    @Peter Watson – can I second your excellent suggestion? I don’t know if it would involve cost, but there must surely be a way to implement user histories that let you see previous comments. I know that this is doable on both The Guardian and The Telegraph websites, and it would be tremendously useful here, even if only to cross-check your own comments.

  • Peter Watson 9th Feb ’14 – 6:26pm
    Yes, Peter, that was it.
    Simon Shaw ‘s description of Wythenshawe — “.., sandwiched between Altrincham and Cheadle Hulme, two of the most affluent, middle class towns in the South Manchester “stockbroker belt”. I think it was just Simon’s characteristic belligerent posture. He probably needs to re-read his copy of ‘How to make friends and influence people’. Given the way things are going in the by election It matters not.
    Given the way things are going in the by election It matters not.
    But I would endorse your request that searches within LDV be easier, if that is possible.

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