By-election news

There were six local by-elections yesterday.

First the good (ish) news:

Milford, Waverley council, Surrey, caused by the death of an independent councillor. As you can see the winner was endorsed by the Lib Dems.

But I’m afraid it was not good news in the rest of them.

Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire County Council, caused by the death of a Conservative councillor.

St Ives East (the one in Cambridgeshire), Huntingdonshire council, caused by the resignation of a Conservative councillor.

Borehamwood Kenilworth, Hertsmere council, Hertfordshire, caused by the resignation of a Labour councillor.

We did not stand a candidate in either of the final two by-elections. Can anyone explain why?

Cliffsend and Pegwell, Thanet council, Kent; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor David Stevens.

Yoxall, East Staffordshire council, caused by the resignation of a Conservative councillor. We are still awaiting the result here, but again we did not stand a candidate.

As always, many thanks to all the candidates who did stand.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames where she is still very active with the local party.

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  • The forthcoming Local Elections are set to be another bruising night for the Lib Dems. What is the party going to do how long is this decline going to last because as many members point out local politics is the Lib Dems bread and butter …this is s rot that set in proper Ten years ago and must be very depressing.

  • David Becket 14th Feb '20 - 3:48pm

    Lib Dems do well in local elections when they are supported at local level by a national party that has credibility. (e.g last May)

    Currently nationally we are in a mess, which is not fair on local activists. We have not picked ourselves up after the election, we show no national sense of direction, there is no leadership, our communications are dire, starting with an appaling web site. We should have been using the Spring Conference to relaunch ourselves, and not have a keynote speech from an ex leader.

    There is a lot hppening nationally that is dangerous, but Labour is concerned with its own election and we have no message.

    At this rate we will do badly in the locals and come well behind Rory Stewart in London.

  • This is becoming pathetic. When by-elections in urban remain voting Bristol and Brent occur they are well flagged,but when a rural Brexit seat comes up it is ignored. Why did neither Davey or Pack visit the seat. Once again we are squeezed and the leadership has no answer how to reverse this.Davey for leader may not be the answer.

  • Urban remain voting by-elections like Bristol and Brent seemed to be well flagged but not rural Brexit voting seats are not.Neither ed Davey or Mark Pack seem to have gone anywhere near Whaley Bridge. As our leadership seem unwilling to even try to get media coverage these local by elections are essential.

  • Tony Greaves 14th Feb '20 - 4:45pm

    A poor night. The national party organisation let the party down badly at the General Election and continues to do so while everyone is behaving like headless chickens wondering if their jobs are safe. The coming local elections are crucial but ALDC and the rest are just carrying on as if it’s “business as usual”. We’ll get some good results in some places where the local people know what they are doing but overall it’s going to be hard work.(And my usual gripe – why can’t ALDC you post the proper results with the votes cast instead of just %s?)

  • Tony Greaves – we have not had a report from ALDC this time, so I posted the tweets from Britain Elects, which give %.

  • David Becket 14th Feb '20 - 7:05pm

    Let us be honest. Yes Gale was endorsed by the Lib Dems, but also Labour and Green

  • The Labour candidate in WhaleyBridge was the MP who (narrowly) lost her seat in the GE. She therefore had a good profile and maybe some sympathy.
    Hello SILVIO. I remember you used to post your doom and gloom messages regularly in the run-up to the local elections last year. We were going to be destroyed in the locals and then routed in the Euros. Your predictions didn’t quite work out, did they? And then, rather than come on here and admit you’d been wrong, you completely disappeared for months – only to magically reappear when we did badly in the GE so you could sing the same old doom and gloom song again as if the intervening successes had not happened. People on LDV are not stupid. We see you.

  • I am a northern voter (outer lying suburb on Manchester) a solid part of the red wall that crumbled.

    In LIB DEM term I an one of your unicorn voters (over 25 years a voter and have flipped between all 3 parties in my time )

    I’m also a brexit voter .

    At election time I was told I didnt know what I was voting for … my vote was deemed worthless …. and you are going to over ride a referendum.

    The country was CRYING out for an election , the electorate had had enough of politicians being viewed as attempting to over-ride democracy.

    I’ve seen articles here proclaiming the loss of MPs Umunna , Subrey switching parties without seeking an affirmation / mandate via a by election, it doesnt sit well (that’s why a 80 seat majority won with Zero switches hiding their seats )

    So as a brexit vote with an internationalist leaning (not european ) .

    How do you convince me (and the rest of the people generally north of London) with leanings similar to mine to vote for you ?


    Malc Poll

  • RossMcL
    The party blew the boost given to it with Brexit. Ten years of decline and further Election mailings to come but still the party refused to face up to reality. The only plus point I suppose is that never had a mainstream party so walked into oblivion do full blooded and obedient as the Lib Dems did following Nick and Danny etc..the loyalty shown was jaw dropping and in certain knowledge of electoral destruction and that certainly takes guts. I salute your political sacrifice for the country. The games over it just hasn’t sunk in yet.

  • Silvio

    The party blew the boost given to it with Brexit. Ten years of decline and further Election mailings to come but still the party refused to face up to reality.

    I completely agree with this statement .

    If you think it’s bad now , just wait for the locals , there are bigger maulings coming down the tracks , just watch the next set of local elections !

    I think the party were backing the wrong house with brexit , if it had come out and SUPPORTED brexit , I suspect it would have fares much better !

    Being the wrong side of the arguement on this issue will cost you as a party for years to come I fear

    Malc Poll

  • A bad week but why is everyone saying this is the definitive state of the party? We have good weeks as well. Do the same people say we are going to gain more seats then?

  • marcstevens 15th Feb '20 - 1:26pm

    Yes these are disappointing local election results but then the weeks before weren’t too bad were they so why the hysteria. I’ve just looked at the latest national polls and the party is on 10%, barely unchanged since the GE. What’s surprising is Green support is now on 6% whereas the B party is down to 2%. What’s wrong with being pro European and sticking to your convictions, I would be horrified if the party became another pro brexit group and don’t think that would ever happen. Was the party wrong on the Iraq war? No and look what happened afterwards.

  • Paul Barker 15th Feb '20 - 1:49pm

    The only sensible way to compare Local Results is to work out the National Vote Equivalent, on that basis this weeks results were no worse than last Weeks & nothing like as bad as some we got last Year.
    Its too soon to be accurate, we only have 10 relevant results so far this Year. On what we have we are probably around the same level as last May, roughly where we might expect given our Poll ratings of around 10%.
    Getting excited/depressed over a handful of Local results is irrational but understandable, given what We have been through.

  • @Malc Poll:

    The main reason the defectors lost is down to the party machine – LDs poor national campaign made it difficult for any individual campaigns to win (though people like Umunna and Berger managed very large percentage swings). Independents very rarely win at the best of times – Claire Wright and Dominic Grieve did well considering. The by-election situation is irksome and there likely should be rules around automatic triggering of by-elections if people change party mid-term. I don’t really blame any of the defectors for not voluntarily doing it, because a GE was right around the corner and there would have been no benefits for them in doing so.

    The party does have need to figure out how to reach broader appeal; there are only so many university towns and wealthy metropolitan areas to go around. As for Brexit… well, we’ll see how that ages in a few years time. It’s time to see Brexit reality.

  • SILVIO – My point is that you only ever post negative comments, even to the point where you actually disappear off the board altogether for months when the party gets a period of positive results, only to magically reappear when things turn sour again. If you’d had the humility and fairness to post after the Euros, “Well, hands up – I got that wrong,” then I for one might be interested in listening to you now. Can you point me to such a post? Maybe I missed it…..

  • Alex Macfie 15th Feb '20 - 4:55pm

    “there likely should be rules around automatic triggering of by-elections if people change party mid-term

    This would give far too much power to party Whips. Any MP who doesn’t toe the line could just have the Whip withdrawn, which would trigger a by-election.
    Under our electoral law we elect individuals, not party delegates. If we decide that votes are principally for parties, then it doesn’t really make sense to have by-elections, and we should instead have a system where a casual vacancy is automatically filled by someone from the MP’s original party.

  • This can be seen as our worst set of results since Christmas. In 2020 so far Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative have all gained one seat each but changes in vote share are also important and they are not good for us this week. As for May the joker in the pack may be the emergence of a rash of new independents, particularly in places where they have not previously been a significant presence.

  • Peter Watson 15th Feb '20 - 5:30pm

    @Alex Macfie “Under our electoral law we elect individuals, not party delegates.”
    In principle yes, but in practice …?
    What proportion of voters know anything about their candidates at election time other than their party?
    I’m pretty ambivalent about MPs resigning their party whip, but if they join a party they previously opposed I think they should be prepared to face voters in a by-election. After all, those defectors from other parties in the 2019 General Election had previously stood before their local electorate in 2017, 2015, etc. explaining why people should not vote for Lib Dems while at the same time local Lib Dems were explaining why voters should not vote for that Labour/Conservative MP!

  • Tony Greaves 15th Feb '20 - 6:14pm

    To be fair these six results were a rather odd lot, and one very poor result in New Mills had some rather unusual circumstances; the other in St Ives was clearly due to the intervention of a popular local Independent. (It is the first really good Labour result since last May!) Two not contested were in wards where from past results we do not seem to exist and the other was a local agreement. ALDC doesn’t like those but I suspect there will be a few more of them as this Parliament goes on. (The one contest next week is another oddity!! – so we may have to wait a bit to get a pattern of what is really going on.)
    As for the presentation of the results I know that Britain Elects are eccentric but it’s not difficult to find the numbers – I had them all before I read the posting here.

  • Mack

    Thank you for your reply .

    You were the only one to take my point on board .

    How do you reach me .

    I do notice no one with a LD avatar responded , it’s a valid question and one that I was hoping to debate .

    Malc Poll

  • Peter Watson 15th Feb '20 - 9:03pm

    @marcstevens “I’ve just looked at the latest national polls and the party is on 10%, barely unchanged since the GE.”
    !0% suggests a continuation of the decline towards the end of the General Election campaign.
    Worse, an Opinium poll published this evening reports a 2% drop from their last poll on 17 January to 7% (

  • It’s usual – and indeef not surprising – for the losers of a general election to see a downtick in their opinion polls and indeed the winners an uptick immediately afterwards.

    It looks as if this May’s locals will be tough especially in Tory facing areas.

    But as always as I have said before the key is to treat election results as works of pure fiction and for us poor infantry to carry on and stick out the focus leaflets!

    For those that don’t know someone normally posts the actual results as supposed to percentages on that week’s thread on the vote UK forum.

    And indeed milord Baron Greaves has been known to comment there.

  • Andrew Tampion 16th Feb '20 - 7:25am

    As far as the question of MP’s resigning the from the party they stood for or changing parties then all that is needed is an amendment to the Recall of MPs Act 205 making an MP who resigns the whip subject to a recall petition. Whether MPs who are thrown out by their party (as opposed to resigning) are included can be decided by debate. In any event I doubt whether Alex Macfies concerns about the power given to party whips is justified as it assumes that the whips can guarantee that a replacement MP will automatically be from their party which they can’t.

  • Paul Barker 16th Feb '20 - 3:35pm

    Just on those Polls :
    There have been 8 Polls since the Election; one each at 7%,8% & 9%, three at 10% & two at 11%.
    You could look at the middle of the range – 9%, the Average 9.5% or the most common result 10%. With only 8 Polls we should not be taking too much notice in any case.

  • Andrew Tampion: Your proposal would still give too much power to Whips. It would be a direct attack on Pariamentary sovereignty, because it would elevate the power of party Whips to something approaching the force of law. Whipping is a matter for internal party discipline; it does not have any formal role in Parliamentary procedure, much less in law, and nor should it. In the US Electoral College, delegates from some states are legally bound to vote for the candidate for President that they were pledged to. But Parliament is not an electoral college, and MPs (and Councillors and AMs) are representatives NOT delegates.
    You say that my concern is not justified because party whips cannot guarantee that a replacement MP would be from the same party, but this might not matter if the party in government has a big majority (whether we’re talking about a government or opposition MP), or the party machine is so antagonistic to the MP that it really doesn’t mind. In any case it’s the principle of Whips getting any sort of direct or indirect legal power over elected representatives that is so problematic for Parliamentary sovereignty.

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