++BREAKING NEWS++ Massive success in Somerton & Frome

“I think we’re going to need a bigger tractor”

The news from Somerton & Frome has surpassed even our most optimistic predictions.

  • Sarah Dyke, Liberal Democrat: 21,187 (54.6%)
  • Conservative: 10, 179 (26.2%)
  • Green: 3,944 (10.2%)
  • Labour: 1009 (2.6%)

That’s a 29% swing from Conservatives to Liberal Democrats.

Huge congratulations to Sarah Dyke MP, and to everyone involved in the campaign.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Neil Hickman 21st Jul '23 - 7:05am

    Sue and I got married in July 1973, two days after Ripon and the Isle of Ely. (We even had some orange icing on the cake).
    Thank you for a delightful early golden wedding present.

  • Roger Billins 21st Jul '23 - 8:10am

    Well done Sarah Dyke but why was Daisy Cooper so terrible on Today this morning. Just saying vote Lib Dem, get a local champion doesn’t cut it.

  • John Bicknell 21st Jul '23 - 9:19am

    It seems to have gone under the radar, but the Greens received over 10% of the vote in this by-election, despite being under pressure to vote tactically. It didn’t have much impact on the result on this occasion, but there are a number of target seats that could be missed at the next GE if they continue to achieve a substantial minority of the anti-Conservative vote.

  • Nonconformistradical 21st Jul '23 - 10:11am

    Looking back at the election history

    it looks as though it was Labour voters who did the tactical voting. Comfortably losing the Labour deposit.

    And from https://eastmendip.greenparty.org.uk/news/2023/06/22/martin-dimery-green-party-parliamentary-candidate/

    might it be that the green candidate had a significant personal vote?

  • On the Green Vote, they increased their Vote share in all 3 Byelections but doubled it in Somerton & Frome. Is this because their Voters are hard to find or are they more loyal ?

  • The answer on the Greens is that Frome has a number of Green councillors.

  • A great result in Somerton & Frome – well done to everyone who helped. But I think we have a bit of a problem. The results in the other seats were dire. In Uxbridge we were down on just 1.7% and were beaten by the Greens and Reclaim. In Selby we took just 3.3% and were in sixth place behind the Greens, the Yorkshire Party and Reform UK. If this sort of result continues in a large number of seats, we have to consider how much of a national party we really are.

  • And in Somerton and Frome the Labour vote collapsed and they came 5th on a tiny percentage of the vote.

    So should Labour too no longer consider itself a national party?

    This is what happens when there is tactical voting.

    There was a clear indication from party leadership that we were making a major effort in S and F and token efforts in the other two seats. Labour gave the reverse indication.

  • We need a solid strategy to deal with the Greens, they have a simple coherent message, what do we have?

  • @Chris Moore. I know what you mean, but especially given Labour’s big poll lead, they aren’t in the same situation as we are.

    And I agree with theakes about the Greens. They have a very simple policy message. We don’t.

  • Chris Moore 21st Jul '23 - 1:11pm

    Hello David, remind me what is the Green’s very simple policy message?

    If we were campaigning under STV, I’d agree there should be some concern.

    However, given we aren’t, I’m delighted that Lab/LD tactical voting is working really well. How would we benefit by pouring in resources and winning say 9% in Selby or Uxbridge?

  • Mick Taylor 21st Jul '23 - 1:15pm

    Why or why do so many Liberal Democrats seek to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory?
    Why not just enjoy the sweet taste of victory?

  • Well said Mick. As LibDems we ought to understand the problems of FPTP and how tactical voting works well enough not to indulge in distracting rhetoric about doing ‘terribly’ because voters behaved rationally.

    Many Greens did resist the call for tactical voting, and we can talk about the how’s and why’s and what we can do to persuade them otherwise next time. But it’s us and Labour who have gained MPs, and that’s what actually counts.

  • Ian Patterson 21st Jul '23 - 2:49pm

    Before we all succumb to euphoria, herewith seats gained at by elections that we do not presently hold. Some have had names changed in interval. From 1993, Newbury, Christchurch, Eastleigh, Littleborough & Saddleworth, Romsey, Brent East, Leicester East, Dunfermline & East Fife and Brecon & Radnor.

  • Alex Macfie 21st Jul '23 - 4:30pm

    Ian Patterson: Four of the seats you mention (Newbury, Eastleigh, Romsey and Brent East) were held through at least two General Elections. Brecon & Radnor was the site of an earlier by-election in 1985, which we won then held, lost and won back in subsequent GEs. After finally wrestling it back in 1997, we held onto it until the 2015 disaster. I believe 1997 was the first GE in which we won back seats that we had previously won in by-elections and subsequently lost in a GE (we also won back Sutton & Cheam them; maybe one could count Harrogate & Knaresborough if it included any part of the old Ripon seat).

    Whether we hold onto the ones we’ve won in this Parliament at the next GE will depend on a lot of factors, including how well the new MPs establish themselves in the constituencies and the popularity of the parties at tht time. If the Tories remain unpopular at the next GE, we have a strong chance or retaining at least some of the seats.

  • Adrian Bagehot 21st Jul '23 - 5:17pm

    The victory in Somerset & Frome is indeed great news and all the hard work done by local workers needs to be praised, but the result must be seen in the context of Conservative and Unionist Party voters staying at home and Labour Party voters either staying at home or in some cases tactically voting to unseat the ruling party candidate.

    In both Selby and Ainsty and in Uxbridge and Ruislip the results should be seen as very troubling — difficult questions must be asked and realistic corrective action has to be taken or the general trend of the Liberal Democrat Party at the parliamentary level sinking further into obscurity will only be expedited.

    The Liberal Democrat vote in the former was only 3.3% with a loss of 5.3% from 2019, and in the latter was only 1.7% with loss of 4.6& from 2019. In each of these constituencies, the Liberal Democrat candidate polled less votes than the right wing populist candidate from Reform UK in the former and from Reclaim Party in the latter.

    If the Liberal Democrat Party candidate cannot do better than recently formed right wing populist parties, what hope is there for any increase in the number of elected representatives in the next Westminster Parliament General Election?

    Special election victories rarely signal victories in the General Election and only serve as a temporary boost to morale, and one win with worsening results in the other two is not any better than the Labour win or Conservative and Unionist hold.

  • Jason Connor 21st Jul '23 - 5:46pm

    It is a major concern Adrian and I would agree with you. Did the party not support these candidates in Selby and Ainsty and in Uxbridge and Ruislip or were they being treated as ‘paper candidates’? I did hear Sarah Olney went to campaign in the latter. There was a time when the Lib Dems would maintain a good third position in these seats but are now being eclipsed not only by the parties you mention but the other one which increased its vote in Somerset & Frome as good as the Lin Dem win there is. Reform, like UKIP used to, is polling not far under 10% and they hardly get any publicity in the media.

  • Leekliberal 21st Jul '23 - 6:10pm

    Well done our team! John Bicknell says ‘It seems to have gone under the radar, but the Greens received over 10% of the vote in this by-election, despite being under pressure to vote tactically.’ As was stated by ‘Theakes’ ‘Could it be that they have a simple coherent message’? Yes indeed, they can still do the vision thing and have a clear and positive message about issues such as Brexit. Compare that to the deafening silence from our leadership about the damage to our economy and freedom to travel caused by it as we languish at 10% in the opinion polls.. Will we learn from this? I’m not holding my breath!

  • Regarding the Green vote, my understanding is that it is concentrated in Frome where they have councillors, and so it may never get much higher.

    Also when knocking up in Frome on polling day I heard from voters that they were employing a reverse-squeeze message along the lines that the Lib Dems were going to win anyway so people should vote Green so that they could beat the Tories into second place. That message may not work again since they failed and fell way short of that.

  • Tristan Ward 21st Jul '23 - 6:33pm

    @ Chris Moore

    “Remind me what is the Green’s very simple policy message?”

    Save the world (from ecological collapse)

    Yes I know Liberal and Liberal Democrats have been saying it for decades.

  • Adrian, I have seen a lot of Tory commentators claim that their dip in vote share was entirely due to their voters ‘staying at home’, not vote switching, but with little evidence, except turnout for the by-elections was down.

    Voter turn-out is always down for by-elections, and while it is probable that more of the people who stayed at home are Tories, that’s a problem for the Tories, not us. But all of the usual reasons people don’t vote in by-elections, especially ones called at short-notice in the holiday period, apply across the parties.

    Tactical votes are a necessity in FPTP elections, and that more voters are getting wise to this is a good thing we can benefit from, not something to fret about.

    The headline message is that our vote share went up overall, and up by a lot in the seat we targeted. The equivalent is true for Labour and inverse for the Tories.

    The Greens clearly had a strategy to increase their vote share in the hope of getting some media attention, and were prepared to risk keeping a Tory in to do so. Some of their voters will think that’s worth it, especially for by-elections. At least they support PR and I don’t blame them for trying to work a flawed system as best they can.

  • To overturn a Conservative majority of more than 19,000 in Somerset and Frome is a remarkable achievement under any circumstances and is of particular import in the West country which has historically been fertile territory for the Liberal Democrat message.
    Uxbridge and Ruislip is only a few miles from Chesham and Amersham where Sarah Green achieved a massive swing from Conservative to LibDems in 2021. As in Chesham and Amersham, house prices in Uxbridge and Ruislip average around £600k (a little higher in Amersham).
    There has been plenty of work put-in by the local Libdems in Uxbridge and Ruislip over the years, but the constituency has always remained a two horse race seemingly immune to persuasion to shift entrenched party loyalties.

  • Alex Macfie 21st Jul '23 - 7:10pm

    We did badly In Con~Lab battleground by-elections in the 1992–1997 Parliament as well, losing ground in Dudley West, South East Staffordshire (basically the present-day Tamworth constituency) and Wirral South. It’s called targeting. I’d have been much more worried if mounted serious campaigns in the other two by-elections of yesterday, got respectable 3rd places there (which we’d almost certainly have lost in the subsequent GEs) and only narrowly scraped through in Somerton & Frome. It would suggest we weren’t picking our battles.
    Our surge in seats in 1997GE from 20 to 46 (on a slightly smaller national vote share) was accompanied by falls in vote share in seats where we were weak. Then in 2010 we had a general uplift in vote share nationwide (no lost deposits), but suffered a net loss of seats and missed out on several easy targets.

    We really should not be worried about falling back in seats we’re never ever going to win. I’d rather a 1997-type GE result than a 2010-type result next time around.

  • David Sheppard 21st Jul '23 - 8:21pm

    We should be using every Bye election as a chance to build strength in at least One part of a constituency when we have little representation or none. In Dudley West I was the only Lib Dem Councillor in 1994 Paddy visited me! The Bye election through into our arms Richard and Loreli Burt One of whom went on to be the MP for Solihull. And we went up to 11 councillors but suffered after the peak in 2004 onwards 2010 coalition did for us completely . We are fighting to get a new Councillor elected on 3rd August come and help us in Dudley? [email protected] Ryan Priest is One to watch!

  • Hi Tristan,

    Save the world from economic collapse is not a policy message.

    It’s an overall objective.

  • Martin Gray 22nd Jul '23 - 4:37am

    Tactical voting tends to go by the wayside come a GE..
    Bit like the youth quake stuff – it never really materialises..At a GE many votes tend to go back to their party allegiances…When they don’t FPTP can be very cruel…15 GE Scotland…19 GE labour leave seats…
    In the lab – con battlegrounds where the next election will be decided – we are an irrelevance….

  • Couple of points on Somerton not mentioned above (if I missed them apologies!):
    1. Higher than normal reduced turnout- did voter ID play a part?
    2. I canvassed in Frome last week and found a Green voter, normally a diehard Tory but using his vote as a protest. Wouldn’t vote for us “you’re going to win anyhow”. Other canvassers found the same. His perception of us was worse than for the Greens!

  • Yeovil Yokel 22nd Jul '23 - 9:48am

    It’s raining in Somerset this morning, and the campaign adrenaline is dissipating, but the sun has definitely been shining on the Lib Dems here for the last couple of days.
    There are so many things I could write about the campaign, the turnout, and the vote share between the different candidates as well as ours, but I’ll confine myself to one: as Ed said in the victory celebration in Frome yesterday morning, this result shows that the Lib Dems are back in serious contention in their former West Country heartlands. With the exception of more Labour-leaning places like Bristol and Exeter, we will be seen once again as the main threat to the Conservatives’ current dominance between Bath and Land’s End. Although campaigning in a large constituency like S & F consumes huge resources of time and energy, it’s easier when you have a candidate like Sarah Dyke who seemed to go down well with rural voters.
    The Conservatives are now so unpopular – detested even – in areas such as this, and Brexit is widely seen as a failure, that I can’t see them recovering much before the next GE. MP’s such as Sarah, Richard Foord, Helen Morgan and possibly Sarah Green – even without the benefit of the focussed campaigning resources available in a by election – should stand a decent chance of retaining their seats.

  • Great result and well done everyone! Not sure about the cannon and confetti stunt yesterday. It featured on the local news along with another item praising volunteer litter pickers cleaning up in another part of Somerset. Even if there was an attempt to clear up afterwards it didn’t look good.

  • The confetti was picked up afterwards. I saw pictures of it happening!

    The stunt worked in the same way other stunts did – it got the win extra attention. Admittedly diluted due to other elections, and the massive amounts of spin being directed towards the Uxbridge result, but most people who are neutral towards us find them fun, and those who hate us fall into the trap of talking about them, and therefore reminding people of our victory.

    More attention could have been given to the clean-up, but I’d like to think most people would realise it was factored in. And people would have complained if we hadn’t done it.

  • @Andy, you make an interesting point about the Conservative-Green vote. I think this is more common than many people realise. A lot of conservatives support recycling and other issues where conserving the environment they are familiar with, or reminisce about, is important to them.

    I remember listening to a podcast about the German political system, and they said that the German Greens were basically right-wingers who like nature.

    In the UK they have a lot less baggage than the bigger parties, and while some of their policies are quite left-wing, they aren’t going to be in power any time soon, and most of their prominent members and supporters are very middle-class, so a safe and attractive for disgruntled Tory voters.

  • Yeovil Yokel 22nd Jul '23 - 11:50am

    I agree with you, Robert, about the confetti. A couple of locals approached us yesterday to complain about it, and although it was made of a biodegradeable material, it looked bad to have it widely littering Frome’s high street in the breeze.

    I have mixed feelings about these sort of stunts: I acknowledge that they garner valuable media attention which is so difficult for our party to attract; but I personally found the one yesterday involving the confetti embarrassing to participate in as it made us look trivial. silly and unprofessional.
    As a Lib Dem infantryman I quite enjoy engaging with voters, but I don’t like being put into the invidious and demoralising position of having to defend things like confetti and leaflet tsunamis. Our sophisticated party officers tell us that the evidence demonstrates their worth, but that argument cuts no ice with annoyed residents on the doorstep.

  • @Martin Gray: Lab→LD tactical votes from by-elections tend to stay with us in the subsequent GE. Sometimes the Labour vote falls even further, e.g. Eastbourne and Ribble Valley in 1992, where the Tories probably regained the seats on the back of returning Tory voters who stayed at home at the by-elections. While it’s always difficult to mobilise tactical voting in a GE, where the local campaign has to compete with the national air war, there is nothing like a by-election victory to show who can and who can’t win locally.

    On the confetti stunt, I would suggest that people who are annoyed about that sort of thing are mainly the ones who want to be annoyed. It sounds like a typical talking point of our partisan enemies in their social media echo-chambers that cuts no ice with the ordinary voter on the doorstep.

  • As much as I will defend the occasional cringy stunt, and accept that there’s evidence that endless leafleting works, the stunts are transient, and don’t really bother anyone except those who don’t want to be reminded we won.

    Complaints about “Dear neighbour” letters and the newspapers are almost always silly. They invariably rely on the assumption the recipient is stupid, but usually boils down to the complainer being frustrated that it’s effective and getting a message across to voters that doesn’t suit their political ambitions.

    BUT, being on the receiving end of endless leaflets, often multiple in one day, would bother me, and complaints about being woken in the early hours because of clanging letter boxes are valid. I get the point that the level at which some complain is lower than it needs to be for others to get the message, but there will be a point of diminishing returns, especially when the next general election isn’t that far away.

  • As far as the old chestnut of too many leaflets is concerned….perhaps Sarah could make a promise not to deliver as many in the General Election. It will be easy to keep!

  • Jason Connor 22nd Jul '23 - 4:03pm

    I agree with Robert and Yeovil. I was going to mention the confetti littering but then thought better of it. I felt the episode was disrespectful to litter pickers like myself who spend much of our time picking up other people’s litter on the verges of my council estate and beyond. Litter which if people had any common sense should be recycled. Whether it is biodegradable or not dropping it encourages others to do the same blighting green spaces and pavements. Littering is a big problem where I live and one of the main complaints from residents to the Council, so my local labour ward councillor tells me. Nothing to do whatsoever with partisan enemies as alluded to above.

  • Big Tall Tim 24th Jul '23 - 2:27pm

    Why do some always find something negative to say about great victories?
    We won a seat with a massive majority for crying out loud. Not only that, it again establishes us as the main challengers to the Tories in the West and South West. Getting 1 out of 3 in FPTP is a great victory. Far better to have 1 victory and 2 lost deposits, than 1 very good second and 2 other saved deposits.
    I’d far rather have our 3 results than either of the other 2.
    Uxbridge was a disaster for Labour. They should have “owned” ULEZ, including explaining why it’s a good thing. They should have won it
    S&F and Selby were disasters for the Tories. Parts of Selby are going into Harrogate at the next election. I understand we got a reasonable vote in those areas, after we targeted them.
    As for the confetti, it was an excellent newsworthy stunt and the confetti was cleared up after.

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