By-election report from ALDC – Thursday 8 July 2021

This week’s by-elections present a very mixed picture, along with some crucial lessons in defending our held seats. With eight vacancies to fight, we stood in six, succeeding in one. We lost our one defence in East Devon, in what was a disappointing result. Nevertheless, good campaigns were fought elsewhere, and we can celebrate a good town council gain.

There two Green gains on Thursday, we stood in one and not the other. The lesson is it’s always better to stand for the sake of giving voters a real choice, rather than getting any misplaced ideas about deals and pacts.

In Honiton St. Michael’s in East Devon, we went from 47% of the vote to just 4.5%, which is something I’m sure the local team will reflect on. There’s a number of reasons for the result. For example, in 2019 we were at the zenith of our summer revival in which we performed extremely well in both locals and the European elections. In Honiton specifically, Labour didn’t stand a candidate in 2019 and so we hoovered up the anti-Tory vote. We should also remember the circumstances in which we gained the seat: in a multi-member ward taking the last seat. These are all true, but perhaps the candidate’s own words tell the story: ‘we didn’t campaign, and so we didn’t deserve any votes’. Not a single door was knocked on. It’s a simple but brutal lesson, and many local parties would do well to take heed.

It’s striking that in Feniton, we got more votes in both absolute and percentage terms than in Honiton, a seat previously won reasonably strongly. In fact, getting 18% of the vote from a standing start (not having stood last time) is very encouraging indeed. Thank you to Todd Olive for standing.

In Mid Sussex however, Ben Jerrit and the local team fought exceptionally hard. It was heartening to see activists sharing their activities on the campaign trail on social media.

Unfortunately, this three-way contest did not go our way this time. From local factors to the Greens running a negative campaign, this by-election resulted in a Green gain. We marginally increased our vote share in percentage terms, which is nothing to be sniffed at. Nevertheless, I’m sure the team will be motivated (after a well deserved rest) to give it another good crack next time. A huge thank you to everyone who gave it their all.

In Huntingdonshire, local factors once again played a part in making the Lib Dem campaign a tricky one. All three main parties saw their votes collapse, showing how difficult it is when a well known independent town councillor stands. Thanks to Geoff Seeff and the rest of the team for giving it a good go anyway.

In better news, we did see a gain in Horsforth Parish Council in Brownberrie ward. Already holding other seats on the council, we were hoping to add to the local team there, and that we did! Congratulations to new councillor Meg Townsley.

At ALDC, we aim to report all town, community, and parish council elections if we’re standing a Lib Dem candidate. However, due to the nature of these councils, we need to know about them first! So if you do have a town council by-election coming up, please let us know by clicking here.

We also stood in Harlow, where we gave the people of Mark Hall ward a Liberal Democrat to vote for. Thank you to Lesley Rideout for standing.

Unfortunately, we did not stand a candidate in the double vacancy in Aldeburgh and Leiston, which ended up being an incredibly tight Green and Conservative fight. The second Green candidate was just two votes off winning. A word of caution here: looking at the two Green gains tonight, we stood in one and not the other – and so the lesson needs to be that it’s always better to stand for the sake of giving voters a real choice, rather than getting any misplaced ideas about deals and pacts.

The full results of the local council by-elections can be found here, as well as forthcoming by-elections here.

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Brad Barrows 10th Jul '21 - 12:41pm

    The real lesson from the 7 electoral contests on July 8th is that on the 3 occasions when the Greens and the Liberal Democrats both stood, the Greens came out ahead. Maybe it would be sensible for the Liberal Democrats to agree an electoral arrangement with the Greens while they remain in a reasonably good negotiating position rather than wait a few years and find themselves in danger of being replaced as the main alternative in England to the Tories and Labour.

  • Paul Barker 10th Jul '21 - 4:16pm

    The article tries to warn us against the results of Pacts with The Greens without actually saying if there was a Pact in this case, surely its easy enough for ALDC to find out ? If there was No Pact & the writer knew that then his point is extremely dishonest.

    I believe that there is a good case for Local Deals with The Greens (GPEW) but of course such Pacts will involve give & take. The argument about denying The Voters a choice might be more convincing if there was any substantial difference in Values or Policy between Our Parties – but there isnt.

    On the Results, these were very poor for us & very good for The Greens. At the same time though we are averaging 9% in The Polls while The Greens average 4% – make of that what you will.

  • nigel hunter 10th Jul '21 - 5:44pm

    we have to be aware that although our policies are similar it is the age of green awareness.People could identify with the word meaning freshness,future climate change etc and the World is under threat.Green epitomises the fight for the future specially with the young who will be living in it..Yes local pacts could unite both to grow and develop to oppose Labour and Conservatives until PR is won and all 4 can then enjoy the fight!

  • nigel hunter 10th Jul '21 - 5:49pm

    To begin entering the ‘new World’ our bird could turn green and a new Written Constitution developed to enter the new world.

  • We missed too many divisions in Cornwall because we faced Green{and Mebyon Kernow}opponents. They may have only polled in low numbers but it was enough.To succeed we need to draw soft Labour as well as soft Tory voters but if they go Labour then we will fail all over again. Can we open a dialogue with them before next years elections.

  • Sorry folks but the Greens ain’t going to win seats off the Tories at the parliamentary level.

    Their first seat they might win against the seat they might win off the Tories is the Isle of Wight where they were third last time despite us standing down for them as part of the Remain Alliance. And they are 40% behind – that is if their vote went up SEVEN times and the Tories almost halved – they would win the grand total of … wait for it… ONE seat off the Tories.

    Now clearly we have lost a chunk of voters to the Greens (as well as to Labour) due to the coalition years and it would be nice to get them back – albeit they are a small chunk.

    But the way forward is not an alliance with the Greens – it *might* be better messaging from us – on a variety of issues – but including the Environment.

    As if you are green, concerned about climate change etc. and you want decent policies on the Environment – and a party that might win some seats its not the Greens it’s us.


    Thursday was a really odd night for the elections for everyone with 6 gains in 7 seats .

    And it was actually a very poor one for the Tories. But one swallow does not make a summer…

    And at the moment it’s clear that us (actually normally more than the others), Labour, the Greens and independents can all win off the Tories – it just depends who is best placed.

    My understanding in East Devon is that Labour had a strong candidate who had founded a local food bank and got a good result in the county division the ward is part of in, in May. Similarly the Indies happen to be strong in the St Neots part of Huntingdonshire and the Greens were they won.

    But the moral of the story is clear – dust off your shoes, get out the letraset and the duplicator (or whatever it is these days) and start throwing stones at the council and the Government and nasty carbon emitters (just to be clear so as not to worry John Marriott these are *metaphorical* stones) – and march to the “sound of gunfire” – we will either get mown down or win – either way it’s better than effing about debating a sodding nonsensical alliance with the Greens.

    And when the dice of an election lands in your patch – as it will very soon one way or another we can all celebrate it on LDV – and achieve a cleaner, greener, healthier, wiser Britain!

  • Can Ollie explain the nature of the Greens negative campaigning in Ardingley, because it was mentioned I’m guessing it was negative to us?
    This could be useful to counter future Green negativity.

  • Big Tall Tim 11th Jul '21 - 11:06am

    Very well said Michael 1. Many Green voters hate us more than they hate the Tories or Labour. Ask the Green candidate in C&A what she thinks of us. She is on record as hating us with a passion. Greens can be split into 3 camps a) Have always been Green and always will be. b) Corbynistas who find Starmer too right wing c) Ex- Liberals who hated the merger with the SDP. They all hate us with a passion. Voting LD is a betrayal of their self-indulgence and purity. Also, the Greens aren’t soft and fluffy like some seem to think they are. Many of them are nasty pieces of work and many of their policy positions are statist and centralised and certainly not liberal. Just like those who support a Progressive Alliance with Labour it is also a massive mistake to assume that if we don’t stand, all our voters will vote Green instead. All the polling evidence shows our voters split all over the place if we aren’t on the ballot paper. Alliances with parties we disagree with, are short term easy options that blur our identity, reduce our vote and damage our future. The Greens are no friends to us in Bedford Borough or nationally. A less damaging solution is a non-aggression pact as in the 1997 General Election. The third and lower Parties should, but literally do nothing else. The best way is for us to get out there and campaign.

  • Michael 1 10th Jul ’21 – 6:57pm:
    Now clearly we have lost a chunk of voters to the Greens (as well as to Labour) due to the coalition years and it would be nice to get them back – albeit they are a small chunk.

    Where have the 30% of Lib Dem voters in the 2015 General Election who went on to vote Leave in the EU Referendum gone to? In Norman Lamb’s old North Norfolk seat, for example, the new Conservative MP polled almost double the Lib Dem candidate and the Labour vote fell (there was no Green Party candidate). Turnout was similar.

  • @Jeff, the people who voted for Norman Lamb really liked Norman Lamb. He was a great MP, but a lot of people voted for him weren’t thinking of the colour of his rosette when they did so.

    @Tim, even from afar it was clear the Green candidate in C&A and some of her activists made no secret of “hating” us. The attacks on social media and apparent lack of grace at the announcement of Sarah’s win were there for all to see. I’m guessing it’s because they felt entitled to all of the ‘green’ votes, and had believed some of their own party’s hype that they were set to overtake us permanently in the polls. The ambition to become the ‘third party’ is stronger for some than the desire to have someone beat the Tories. And of course many of them have spent the last however many years telling each other that we are exactly the same as the Tories.

    On the other hand, one of my best friends is a Green and she doesn’t fall into any of your three categories and doesn’t hate anyone. She is someone who thinks we (as a country and as individuals) need to prioritise the environment much more than we’re doing. She also recognises that a lot of the loudest political activists are unrealistic and that for some, supporting a party that’s never been in power means they don’t have to defend decisions which turned out to be a mistake or unpopular.

    With new voters in particular, a lot of them will decide to vote Green simply to make a point on the environment. They won’t know much about their other policies, and may know little about their environmental ones – except that they have them. If we want to attract those voters we need to be louder about our environmental policies. They should be front and centre when we talk about our values. We should be doing it anyway – the consequences of climate change are massive with millions of people dying, displaced or suffering ill health. Public Health England estimates between 28,000 and 35,000 people die in this country every year due to poor air quality. The environment isn’t a niche issue, but it sometimes feels like some in the party treat it as such.

    The Green LibDems do some great work, but sometimes it feels like they are treated as an add-on to the party, not a core part of it. If we want to attract more votes from potential Green voters, and young people in general, we need to stop treating the environment as a hobby that interests only some members.

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