By-election report from ALDC: 15th July….and 13th?

When we were looking at this week of by-elections coming up, we thought it’d be a bit of a lull. In fact, it’s been one of the most exciting by-election weeks we’ve had in a while! A Tuesday by-election, flying the flag for the first time in 15 years in Sandwell, and an outstanding Parish Council win by just one vote. It’s been a great week for us by-election nerds!

We had quite the pleasant surprise here at ALDC towers when someone reported a by-election happening on Tuesday night, even more so when it ended up being another Lib Dem win. Whilst there’s long standing statutory requirements for local elections to be held on the first Thursday of May, and the same for general elections since the Fixed-Terms Parliament Act, no such regulations exist for by-elections, and is merely convention. Why this one bucked convention no one quite knows…

This election being held on a Tuesday wasn’t the only interesting thing about this particular contest for Wells City Council – with the Liberal Democrats and St. Thomas’ ward having a turbulent recent history. Tony Robbins first joined the City Council in 2007, getting last re-elected in 2019. Resigning 6 months after his re-election, the seat was successfully defended by another Lib Dem in one of the last by-elections of 2020 last February. That Lib Dem councillor then also resigned, triggering this by-election which has seen Tony Robbins return to his old seat! The ward was previously held by the Lib Dems on the district level, but a mishap with nomination papers meant that Tony was unable to stand to defend the seat in a by-election on the 6th May this year. Nevertheless, we’re very pleased to see Tony return to public office and hope to see us continue to do well in Wells! Congratulations Cllr. Robbins!

Thursday saw us stand in the only principal authority by-election this week in Tividale Ward in Sandwell MBC. This is particularly encouraging given that we hadn’t stood there since 2006, although we won the seat in 1991 in a straight Lib/Lab fight. Though it was a Conservative gain, we gave 30 Lib Dems someone to vote for, and that’s really important. Well done and thank you to Nick Bradley for standing for us.

In Totton and Eling Town Council (New Forest), we saw a really tough contest between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats in the New Forest are a strong bunch, but unfortunately the wind did not blow our way this time. Commiserations to Lesley Edwards and the local team. A Conservative hold, but we got 37.1% from a standing start in a straight Lib Dem/Tory fight, which is a laudable achievement indeed.

Finally, in Telford we saw an absolute masterclass of a campaign in Lawley and Overdale Parish Council. An independent defence, it initially was shaping up to be a three-way fight between the main parties. However, as Greg Spruce (Vice-Chair of the local party) explained, they ran a ‘mini Chesham and Amersham’, using extremely smart targeting strategies and taking advantage of the same Tory weakness that saw Sarah Green MP storm to victory.

Greg also emphasised how integral marked registers were to executing this micro-targeting strategy. Marked Registers are one of the key tools we use as political campaigners. For more information on this and how ALDC can support you, please see our blog article here. With a combination of smart Connect use, the Lib Dem HQ Campaign Hub, and ALDC resources, they pooled the best campaigning our party has to offer into one Parish Council by-election. The gain, going up by 20 points, is very well deserved. Congratulations to Cathy Salter and the fantastic campaign team!

It’s worth emphasising that this was won by just one vote. Greg tells me how he knocked on one gentleman’s door who had forgotten the election was that day; of course that ended up being the crucial deciding vote. The lesson here is clear: do not underestimate Parish-level elections, and always put as much effort into your GOTV as possible!

Overall then, a very exciting week for by-elections. Full results of these and all previous by-elections are available here. If you’re also someone who can’t get enough of local council by-elections, why not sign up to be a Thursday Night Reporter for ALDC? Get in touch with our Volunteering Officer Abi Bell at [email protected]

* Ollie Bradfield is a Campaigns and Communications Intern at ALDC with responsibility for the by-elections reporting service

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One Comment

  • I know it’s nice to put a positive polish on things, but what is in any way great about a LD candidate getting 30 votes in a ward which was once held from Labour … and is now Tory?

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