By-election update: Staplehurst gain by 6 votes

There were eight principal by-elections this week in Blackpool, Doncaster, Maidstone, Northumberland, Reading, Rhondda, Walsall and Windsor. The Liberal Democrats made two gains, Labour held four seats, UKIP gained one seat and an Independent held one seat.

longhoughtonThe Berwick Liberal Democrats stormed to victory in the rural ward of Longhoughton (Northumberland CC). Kate Cairns won just shy of 50% of the vote to gain the seat for the Liberal Democrats after the death of a long standing and popular Independent councillor. The division which had not seen such a competitive election in a long time saw the Conservatives come second with 23.5%, an Independent came third (13.9%), UKIP were fourth with 9.8% and Labour trailed in last with 3.2%. Campaigning is not easy in the division which is nearly the size of Luxembourg so the local Liberal Democrats made good use of Virtual Phone Banks and had help with telephoning from across the country. They also made use of ALDC best practice resources to run a strong traditional literature campaign. Julie Pörksen, the local PPC who is hoping to succeed Sir Alan Beith, helped lead the by-election effort and ran a popular local campaign about Labour cutting post-16 subsidised transport. Cllr Cairns is a parish councillor and well-known road safety champion and so the campaign also focused on speeding, cycle safety, potholes and parking along the coastal road.

The Liberal Democrats also gained a seat in Staplehurst ward from the Conservatives in Maidstone and the Weald. Just six votes separated victorious Paulina Watson from her Conservative opponent. The Liberal Democrat share of the vote increased by 9% to 36.2%, the Conservatives were runners up with 35.9%, UKIP’s vote dropped 5% to come third on 18.5%, Labour got 7% and the Green Party came last with 2.4%. Cllr Watson who is Dutch was a manager in social care for Kent County Council. The Conservative’s council’s housing expansion plans were the key issue in the by-election. The result is a blow to the Tory minority-council and leaves the current composition as 24 Conservatives, 20 Liberal Democrats, five Independents, four UKIP and two Labour councillors.

For all the detailed results see ALDC elections 

* ALDC is the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners

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  • Tony Dawson 25th Jul '14 - 3:59pm

    Ah me.

    It is the best part of thirty years since I wrote all the literature for a winning by-election in this constituency.

    Well done, Julie & co.

  • Charles Rothwell 25th Jul '14 - 5:13pm

    Well done indeed, Julie & co. Heartening news with which to enter the weekend. (Unlike some in Labour ranks, I should think. The Doncaster ward referred to saw UKIP come in ahead of Labour. (Yes, DONCASTER – Milliband’s constituency (and where, just to rub it in/solidify their role as the champions of the Great Proletarian National Awakening, the Kippers will be holding their national conference (at which (who knows?) they might even come up with a Manifesto they do not denounce as “unreadable rubbish” a couple of years later?)) Tories were down nearly 3 points at third place and no LD was standing. So where does the progressive, non-socialist vote go? Yep, the Greens came from nowhere to pick up 6%. Not a prayer we are going to get back the unfixed, floating protest/”stuff the lot of you” old white blokes vote which has firmly gone to Kipperland in places like Doncaster + Thurrock and Thanet South and other constituencies identified by Ashcroft as potentially giving the Kippers their first Westminster seats ( (and where Farage will be fully focusing his resources and has absolutely no problem at all in making ti clear how he intends to learn from us in the tactics he adopts). What I DO believe, though, is that if we do not start winning people back from the Greens (who are basically ‘our kind of people’ in any case), it will be a real tragedy

  • Charles Rothwell

    Looking at the results through very amber-tinted lenses but if it makes you happy to do so then carry on

    Firstly, cherry-picked local by-election results have absolutely no bearing on how a GE is going to go, secondly each seat has its own local complexities and reasons for the results cannot be used for too many conclusions, unless of course the party is seeing a collapse in vote everywhere or lots of losses

    If we ale the Doncaster seat – LD I believe used to have good representation here and the actual UKIP candidate seems to have changed parties at a rapid rate (including your own). It is also a seat where parties such as the ED have done well before and the presence of the Greens will also have an impact.

    Do you honestly believe that UKIP are going to take Miliband’s seat….really?

    The seat in Northumberland was taken from a long-standing independent and choosing a local candidate would have helped. No Labour presence here

    Maidstone a very good result but against the Tories……your friends and partners. Does it show you can still win these type or parliamentary seats…,perhaps or not?

    Elsewhere pretty dismal

    What the elections are showing is that the LD are no longer a national party…..Tory and Labour have areas where they do not register well but the LD do not seem to be able to field candidates or raise votes above 3% in large swathes of the country. What is going to happen in ten months to change that

    Having Osborne’s tame LD popping up and drawing some rather optimistic and cherry-picked conclusions about the economic state of the country…even more buoyant than Osborne – when so many of your ex-voters have not felt any benefit at all was another shot in the foot

    But then again I don’t think you care much anymore being ‘right-wing economically’ as I have seen made clear from members recently

  • paul barker 25th Jul '14 - 9:24pm

    In the latest Poll UKIP are down 4% to 9%, level with The Libdems. Looking, more sensibly at Polling averages UKIP have been falling steadily since their peak in early June & are now roughly back where they were before May. In Local byelections UKIP have an impressive record where they stand for the first time but in most cases they lose Vote share when they stand again.
    The Greens currently average 5%, again thats down from June.

  • paulbarker

    In one of the latest polls you mean!

    In others the Lib Dems are lower, but even if UKIP and the Greens are off where they were recently there seems to be no increase in LD performance so I fail to see what your point is.

    The main beneficiaries seem to be Labour and the Tories who are polling a combined figure higher than they have for a while

  • Well done to the teams in Maidstone and Northumberland – great results there.
    For info the UkIP win in Doncaster was in Rosie Winterton’s Doncaster Central seat rather than Ed M’s Doncaster North.

  • “In the latest Poll UKIP are down 4% to 9%, level with The Libdems.”

    But the Tories are the beneficiaries. That is anything but good news for the Lib Dems. The situation starts to look like a “perfect storm”, in which the Lib Dems are down by something like 15% on 2010, while Labour are significantly up and the Tories are about the same as they were.

    If anything, you should be praying for a UKIP revival, not celebrating their demise.

  • The ukip councillor in Doncaster Central used to be LD as well as a Lab cllr.

  • “So there you have it, a ward the Lib dems used to win but now can’t even find a candidate.”

    The Lib Dems couldn’t find a candidate in 4 out of the 8 contests on Thursday. Even the ultra-loyalists acknowledge this is a problem.

    It would be interesting to know why only half of the local by-elections on a given day were contested by the Lib Dems. I used to think it must be hard getting nomination papers completed when the vote was down to a couple of dozen or so. But someone kindly explained that non-supporters are willing to be signatories in the interests of democracy and fair play and that sort of thing.

    So is the difficulty finding eligible people willing to be paper candidates? Or have the party structures collapsed to the extent that there is just no one there to organise things and get the paperwork filled in and delivered?

  • Maidstone shows us what can be done by determined local activists, despite the “coalition”, the unpopular leader, the numerous tactical blunders and the declining activist base. If we changed the leader and brought in someone I am probably not allowed to name to run the campaign, many more Maidstones would appear on the radar screen.

    Maidstone has maintained a substantial local government presence since the 1970s, though there has never been a majority administration. Other parts of Kent have come and gone (Gillingham, Shepway, Swale, Tonbridge & Malling, Tunbridge Wells), but Maidstone has always kept the flag flying. If the boundaries were drawn around the town, as they have been in Colchester since 1997, Maidstone might well have been a gain by now. It is great to see one of the villages elect a Liberal Democrat councillor. The 1997 victory in Hereford was preceded by a move out into the villages. Under different circumstances, I would be hailing Staplehurst as a sign of things to come.

  • I think Southcote in Reading used to be ours,

  • Chris There are always black holes, and however far you go back you will find uncontested seats. It is just that there is now a tendency for black holes to join up, and the further you are from a centre of activity, the less likely is it that anyone will be found.

  • clive english 28th Jul '14 - 8:48am

    re the nimbyism comment in relation to Staplehurst. There are many many issues with the Conservative local plan in Maidstone, one of which is ignoring regeneration sites for green field sites, simply because its easier that way rather than doing the job of drawing up the Local Plan properly. Another is ignoring sites put FORWARD for development by local communities and Parishes in favour of their own pet projects. So it is to a large degree not how many, but where, and also what, as they are proposing lots of flats and executive houses and too few family homes.

  • Sesenco… Maidstone Local Party decided at our recent exec not only to not hold a ballot on whether to replace Clegg but also unanimously to send a letter of support. We win in Maidstone because we sell what the leadership has done (and make it local) not in spite of them. We win because we’re not afraid to get out on the doorstep (time and time again) and talk tough to people.

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