By-election update: Hold in Pendle, Gain in Cheltenham

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)

This week saw eight principal authority by-elections and two deferred elections in Cheltenham and Tower Hamlets.

In Old Laund Booth ward (Pendle BC), Brian Newman successfully held the seat for the Liberal Democrats. Brian received 58.3% of the vote; increasing the Liberal Democrat vote share by 9.7%. The Conservatives vote dropped 10.9% to come second on 36.3%. UKIP failed to gain any traction coming a poor third with just 27 votes and the Blue Party (a breakaway of the BNP) came last with only 13 votes. Lord Greaves who was Cllr Newman’s agent says has put the victory down to three reasons. Firstly Cllr Newman is a brilliant candidate who is an active and popular Chairman of the local parish council. He is well known and works hard in the old mill town just outside Pendle which now serves as a commuter village. The winning campaign focused heavily on the record of action of the previous Liberal Democrat councillor who had to stand down due to ill health. The local team fought a very intensive campaign and amazingly managed to contact 95% of households. An endorsement letter from the outgoing councillor, six ward-wide FOCUS leaflets, letters to postal votes and targeted letters to different groups helped the team to ensure the Liberal Democrats held the seat. On polling day everywhere was knocked up twice in addition to the phone knock up. The Conservatives also did a lot of work in the ward; the Tory MP even spent the whole day in the ward. Campaigning was grounded in local issues. The local Liberal Democrats have been campaigning against Tory plans to expand an industrial estate. When the Conservative candidate in the by-election said she was against the plans it carried little weight given the Conservative Council and MP have been its biggest proponents. UKIP did no campaigning and the local team feel running a strong localised campaign helped to dampen any swing towards them.

The deferred election in Charlton Park (Cheltenham BC) saw the Liberal Democrat sweep to victory in a ward the party has never held before. Paul Baker, who is the Chairman of Cheltenham Town FC, was top of the scoreboard after securing 45.9% of the vote. The Conservatives came second with 40.9% and UKIP third with 8.2%. Labour and the Green Party came joint fourth with 2.5%. Cllr Baker said: “I am delighted and exhausted to say the least. We have worked very hard on a very long campaign – knocking on hundreds of residents over the last few months – and it has been a really exuberant experience. We have taken a seat in what was a Conservative heartland.” The result means the Liberal Democrats won 14 of the 20 seats up in Cheltenham this year compared to four for the Conservatives and two for the People Against Bureaucracy. Martin Horwood, the Lib Dem MP for Cheltenham, said: “When we fight a good, positive campaign and we work really hard we can win anywhere. [The result] is obviously a good omen for next year but I am not complacent.”

For all the detailed results see the ALDC elections 

* ALDC is the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners

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  • Congratulations to all, and in my case particularly Paul Baker, I have never had a Lib Dem councillor before and it is great to see my €0.70 stamp for the postal vote going to a good cause!

  • Max Wilkinson 4th Jul '14 - 2:51pm

    The result for Paul Baker caps off a terrific council election for the Cheltenham team. We held all our seats and took two from the Tories. Much credit must go to the relentless efforts of the office team: David Fidgeon, Andy Williams and Chris Ward. We are lucky to have them.

  • Max Wilkinson 4th Jul '14 - 2:54pm

    And well done to Paul Baker too, obvs.

  • Think there was a gain in Skipton West earlier in the week and yesterday a good second in Northampton. Altogether probably the best performance for ages, are we over the very, very worst, or is it a flash in the pan?

  • Steve Griffiths 4th Jul '14 - 4:43pm

    Good news indeed.

    It would be interesting to know whether in Pendle the candidate was described as ‘Local Democrat’ or ‘Liberal Democrat’?

  • Sorry, Theakes – your underlying optimism under all those layers of how badly we will do must have overcome you! The two byelections on Wednesday in Skipton, one a N Yorks CC, one a Craven DC seat, were losses, the County to Independent, the District to Labour. The Northampton candidate was the redoubtable Jill Hope, who moved, via Milton Keynes, from Leicestershire after being a target PPC there.

  • Hi Tim, actually I am far far from being optimistic, I still am very very pessimistic, I just wondered if we had hit the very worst point in our fortunes and it will not get any worse. I am convinced the party will get no more that 10 – 15 seats next year at best and looking at two opinion poll surveys today today that seems fitting, 7.9% overall average and in Thanet South a mouth watering 0.99% wow. Thanks for clarifying Skipton West, I can recall when Skipton was quite a marginal seat betweeen the Liberals and the Conservatives. Oh happy days.i We must change the leader, whats his name?

  • Tony Greaves 4th Jul '14 - 9:07pm

    Who calls me Lord Greaves? Not in Pendle anyway – I am Councillor Greaves which I regard as a higher title because I have to seek the approval to use it from the people in my ward, every four years! By the way Fence (Old Laund Booth) is a village not a town.

    Of course we stood as Liberal Democrat and used the party logo, and had stories about the Liberal group on the Council and what local Liberals have achieved and done over the years and recently. But every leaflet featured the “Warning Keep it Local” clipart from the old days, and the word LOCAL certainly featured more often in headlines and more prominently than the word LIBERAL. I fear there were no stories about national stuff.

    But we had a star candidate in a tiny ward and it was ours to lose. There was worrying evidence in the last week of more people voting UKIP to “protest at all of them” – and they were people we had canvassed as supporters earlier on. We did indeed manage to squeeze them back by stressing the clear choice of “the best candidate” and local action, as against a national protest vote to no effect at all. “This is a local election and nothing to do with national politics”.

    It would be nice not to have to say that but there are times when you have to do it to survive. (And it was true!)aking

    Our Tory MP spent a pleasant day hovering round the polling station and in the end sitting taking numbers for them after I complained about him button-holing voters on the pavement outside!

    Tony Greaves

  • paul barker 4th Jul '14 - 9:58pm

    Overall our vote held up. In the 7 seats where we stood both times it was 2 up by around 10%, 3 with little change & 2 down by about 10%. Thats in a context of greater competition with UKIP standing in most seats now.

    In Polls since the 28th we have crept up to around 8.5% while UKIP are sharply down at around 13%. This isnt counting any Polls tonight.

  • “Overall our vote held up.”

    Compared to when the seats were last fought, not compared to pre-coalition levels!

    Even in Pendle and Cheltenham the Lib Dem share of the vote was down on the last pre-coalition contest (only 2 points down in Cheltenham, but nearly 8 points down in Pendle).

    In the by-election in Craven, the Lib Dem vote share was down by 38% since the last pre-coalition contest, in 2008.

  • Max Wilkinson 5th Jul '14 - 9:19am

    There were only two candidates in Charlton Park in May 2010 – Paul Baker and the Conservatives. The fact that we dropped such a small amount, despite a challenge from Green, Labour and UKIP, tells the full story.

  • Max Wilkinson: Chris is never known for missing the scantiest downside to any success.

    Not only are you right, but the astounding turn out of 47% means an increase in sheer numbers and a good omen for Martin Horwood in 2015. The ward had been regarded as so true blue that it was long uncontested by Liberals (the only opposition was a group called something like ratepayers alliance). Paul Baker is the first Liberal Democrat or Liberal in the wards history. My understanding (from quite a distance) is that the seat was hotly contested with Tories and UKIP spreading scare stories about Lib Dem plans.

  • “Chris is never known for missing the scantiest downside to any success.”

    With regard to the Cheltenham result, I agree it was a good one. As I pointed out, the share of the vote dropped by only 2 points since 2010.

    But with regard to the other results, the drop since pre-coalition levels was a lot larger. If Martin regards the drop in Craven – from 56.8% to 18.5% – as “scanty” I can only marvel!

  • A Social Liberal 5th Jul '14 - 9:09pm

    Just over the border from Pendle is Skipton. We lost three seats here last week, one of each of the three tiers of local government. This despite putting out three leafets, (some with inserts targeted at streets where specific concerns were raised), a blue ink letter and where we canvassed – sometimes the same area twice.

  • “When we fight a good, positive campaign and we work really hard we can win anywhere. ” Sadly not universally true at the moment. I’ve seen 2 campaigns recently which have done that, along with a good hard-working candidate, but still came third, just behind a UKIP candidate who did no work at all. The missing factor was “working all year round” – you need to build credibility for a year or more before the election, which is not possible in a dead ward with an unexpected by-election. That is why loss of active members and the spread of dead areas is so damaging to our Party.

  • SIMON BANKS 15th Jul '14 - 3:58pm

    I could not agree more with David Wright’s conclusion – except that of late, people have lost who had a record of getting things done,ran good campaigns and WERE active all the year round, but their local credibility was washed over by our national lack of credibility – in the eyes of those voters, mostly people on modest incomes in areas with plenty of problems.

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