By-election update: Lib Dems take two seats from Tories in Canterbury and Ludlow

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)It has been a busy week for by-elections with ten in principal authorities and one parish council by-election reported to the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors (ALDC).

The Liberal Democrats gained a seat from the Conservatives yesterday in Barnham Downs ward, Canterbury. Michael Sole was 52 votes ahead of his Conservative rival, taking 37.3%. It was a bad result for the Conservatives who lost 11.4% of the vote despite the Tory Council Leader living in the ward. UKIP took 18.15 to come third, Labour finished fourth with 78 votes and the Green party saw a 12% drop in the vote share taking last place.

Cllr Sole is a local accountant who is well known to local residents having appeared in Kingsbourne Players’ pantomime during the campaign! He fought a campaign ensuring that rural wards in Canterbury are listened to by the City council particularly regarding litter, speed restrictions and recycling. Cllr Alex Perkins, Liberal Democrat leader in Canterbury is hopeful this result bodes well for local elections next year, said:

“When you have a Council as universally unpopular as this one currently is, it’s hard to see how the Lib Dems couldn’t make a gain. In the last election, the Lib Dems lost lots of seats by a handful of votes, so I do expect us to make a big gain in a year’s time.”

In Shropshire Andy Boddington stormed to victory in Ludlow North having missed out by just 85 votes last May. His vote share increased by 11.7% to take 45.3%. The Conservatives failed to defend the seat and slumped to second on 29.9%, an Independent came third on 17.4% and Labour also saw their vote share drop slightly finishing on 7.4%.

Judith Wheeler took 66% of the vote to retain a Liberal Democrat seat in Cobbs ward of Appleton Parish Council. Labour’s vote dropped by 1.7% to come second on 20.9%. The Conservatives came back of the pack with 13.2% (a drop of 8.7%).

No other seats changed hands this week. The Conservatives held seats in Hampshire, South Ketseven, East Hampshire and Runnymede. Labour held on in Knowlsey, Luton, Crewe and Amber Valley. UKIP came second in most of the by-elections they stood in taking around a quarter of the vote.

For all the detailed results see the ALDC elections page:

* ALDC is the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners

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This entry was posted in Local government and News.


  • No other seats changed hands this week.

    Nor did the seat on Appleton Parish Council which ALDC chose to highlight, for that matter.

    But going back to principal authorities, there were eight other by-elections this week, and I’m not surprised the ALDC didn’t want to discuss them. Here’s what I posted earlier on another thread:

    The other eight local by-elections this week were absolutely dire for the Lib Dems. In the five wards contested both now and in the last parliament, the average drop in the Lib Dem vote since then was 15.5% – starting from a base of 31.9%, so in percentage terms the vote has halved.

    In another the ward was uncontested in the last parliament, but the vote share has dropped by 14.3% since 2011. In three more, the party didn’t put up a candidate. Not that these were historically weak wards – in Knowsley the party polled 40.8% as recently as 2008, in Kesteven it polled 27.9% in 2011, and in Runnymede the pre-coalition vote had been 19.8%.

    On average, local by-elections provide no reason to doubt the picture painted by the national opinion polls.

  • caracatus:
    2011 result Barham
    Con 538
    Green 206 67% turnout
    this time 41.3 t/o
    Hope this helps

  • In the present situation, it really needs pre-coalition results too. The figures for Barham Downs were:
    2011 – Con 538, LD 510, Grn 206
    2007 – LD 656, Con 413, Lab 44
    2003 – LD 761, Con 318, Lab 34

    Before the coalition this was a very safe Lib Dem ward, last held with almost 59% of the vote. In that context regaining it with 37.3% isn’t particularly reassuring.

  • Paul In Twickenham 15th Mar '14 - 9:54am

    And if you are looking for the pre-2010 result for Barham Downs:

    2007 Barham Downs LD 656 Con 413 Lab 44 Turnout 52.4%

    So in 2007 this looked like a fairly safe Lib Dem ward. But congratulations to the winning candidate this time.

    It is particularly disturbing to receive an email from London Lib Dems this morning asking if people are prepared to stand as paperless candidates in London boroughs in which they work, even if they don’t live there. I was saddened to see Harrow (a place where I had the pleasure of campaigning with Dick Haines back in the 1980’s when the Liberal group was a very strong and vibrant force there) and Tower Hamlets listed as places struggling for people prepared to be nominated.

  • Julian Dean 15th Mar '14 - 9:56am

    What exactly do you need to fight for in these constituencies? The NHS, social justice or welfate etc?

    What promises are made to entice voters, Im intrigued?

  • “The middle ground of getting a reasonable 20% or 25% doesn’t seem to be happening these days.”

    If the national level of support is 10%, and if you hope to stay in contention in – say – 10% of contests, then arithmetic dictates that you’re going to be in low single figures in most of the others.

  • Comparing results now to results before we entered Government is a perfectly valid thing to do though I cant see that it tells us anything new.
    Another approach is to compare with the last time the seats were fought. On that basis, over the last 3 weeks we fought in 11 seats where we fought last time, in 5 our vote went up & in 5 it went down. The average change was a rise of just over 1%. To me that seems like confirmation that we have passed our low point.
    If we look at Labours performance in the 13 seats they fough both times, their vote rose in 2 & fell in 10. Their average change was a fall of just over 6%. That also fits with their fall in average Polls over the last 13 months.

  • “Comparing results now to results before we entered Government is a perfectly valid thing to do though I cant see that it tells us anything new.”

    Well, obviously, whether it tells you anything new depends on whether the situation has changed since the comparison was last made.

    But if you’re trying to gauge likely changes in votes cast at the next general election compared with 2010, the pre-coalition comparison is obviously much more relevant than a comparison with the results of previous elections that took place in 2011 and later.

  • Chris
    this was the first election in Barham Downs where Labour and UKIP actually fought it..glossy leaflets et al…it was a major success in winning in those circumstances

  • Paul In Twickenham 15th Mar '14 - 11:47am

    @paul barker- it is really very simple: this is the year 2014. The last time most of the seats being fought in May were contested would be in 2010, so before the collapse in Lib Dem support. That means that you cannot extrapolate from by- elections to the likely results in May, since at this point almost all of those by-elections will be in seats that were last contested after 2010. There are scenarios that can be constructed that lessen the damage to the Liberal Democrat local government base – for example UKIP might be a black swan, or at least a mucky duck – but it seems a strategem for disappointment to insist that the other parties are imploding and we’re set fair May.

  • this was the first election in Barham Downs where Labour and UKIP actually fought it..

    It wasn’t the first time Labour had fought it; they missed only 2011 – look at the figures I posted above.

    It was the first time UKIP had fought it, but the UKIP intervention surely hindered the Tories more than the Lib Dems.

  • nvelope2003 15th Mar '14 - 1:08pm

    Liberal Democrats are in a peace time Government for the first time since 1930 during one of the worst recessions since then and surprise surprise they are not doing well in elections. Well I never !

  • Simon It is, of course, most often where we CAN’T work, not “don’t work”, because of no active / competent members.

  • @Paul in Twickenham Like you I alsonhad the pleasure of campaigning with Dick Haines back in the 1980′s when the Liberal group in Harrowv was on the up. Council byelections in the early 1980 s seemed to happen all the time. If I was not in a car with Steve Harris and Roger Hayes travelling to help in Harrow, then Dick Haines and Ralph Bancroft were in a car on the way to Kingston, or we were all on our way to somewhere in the boroughs of Sutton or Richmond often in Kew ward.
    Richmond byelections always had the attraction of the great Pat Wainwright and buckets of chilli for hungry helpers.

    If we could rebuild that sense of common spirit and involvement ten the party could be on te up again. Of course we are now told that people like us are not serious about power and were only about protest. This is odd because I,am sure I remember Liberal Democrats wielding power in Harrow, Richmond, Sutton and Kingston.
    Perhaps if some of the party members who are now in their twenties and thirties spent less time on theirkeyboards tweaking their blogs or trying to get a job as a SpAd and wentcampaigning in real elections, talking to real people, we might start winning elections rather than losing deposits.

  • George Potter,
    I will e-mail you as to why nowadays I spend rather a lot of my time indoors, tapping away at a keyboard. I think you will understand and I hope you will think it is a good reason and to an excuse.
    Your point is a perfectly reasonable one. It was a silly generalisation by me. For all I know there are hoards of activists in their twenties and thirties out there about to win council seats in May. I certainly hope so.
    As for being confused with Simon Titley, I will take that as a compliment. I have always thought Simon to be one of the better people in the party.
    It is a very long time since I wrote anything for Liberator but I still read it with interest. It is one of the few things in the party that is excellent value for money and actually discusses politics rather than recipes or whatever it is they put in that Ad Lib thing.

  • Simon Banks 15th Mar '14 - 8:02pm

    If the Conservatives failed to defend the seat in Ludlow North, how did they get 29.9% without a candidate? I think this means “failed to defend the seat successfully”.

  • Barham Downs is a collection of villages to the south of Canterbury. In most Kent villages, the Tories do extremely well and the Liberal Democrats very badly. In the villages immediately south of Canterbury, this is not the case. That suggests to me that the local Liberal Democrats have worked the ward consistently for a prolonged period and fought a good campaign. Another notable feature of this election is the poor showing by UKIP, just a short distance from its (relative) strongholds in Thanet and Folkestone. If UKIP cannot pick up the protest vote where the Liberal Democrats are strong, that is very good news for us. The concentration of university people in Canterbury undoubtedly does help us – just like the media people in Richmond – but that’s just the icing on the cake. In Barham Downs, we have people who would otherwise vote Tory, UKIP, Labour and nobody voting Liberal Democrat. If we stopped propping up the Tory government, this might happen in more places.

  • Barham Downs was represented by Martin Vye for 20 years until his retirement in 2010.

    Not only was Martin City councillor for the ward, he was also County Councillor for Canterbury South, and LibDem PPC as well. His wife was Head of the local primary school. He had a very large personal vote.

    Oh, and David Starkey, who lives in Barham, now has a LibDem councillor…

  • Interestingly, Labour’s performance last week fell well short of recent opinion poll predictions.

  • Latest Euro poll has the Greens only 2% behind us, 8 and 6% respectively. Looks like we’ll be wiped-out.
    Local elections seats last fought 2011, a very bad year, so we may just hold our own in terms of gains and losses, but regarding votes overall probably down again. The helpful point is that this year should be the last time when we will not be defending large gains, so the next few years might see marginal local government improvement, but people have long memories and it will take till 2017/8 to really begin to restore our fortunes.

  • paul barker 16th Mar '14 - 2:49pm

    The background to all this is the steady improvement in the Economy for which we will be rewarded at the General Election & probably not before. If you want a sense of how plausible the “predictions” of The Opinion Polls are just look at the latest figures from Yougov, less than half of the Voters who Say they intend to vote Labour think the Economy would be better under a Labour Government. Even looking at The Voting “Intention” Polls shows Labours lead over The Tories continuing to evaporate from an average of 11% a year ago to 4% now. Thats mostly the result of Labour falling rather than The Conservatives going up.

  • A Social Liberal 16th Mar '14 - 4:47pm


    You have just made my day (with the last sentence in your post)

  • Nick Collins 16th Mar '14 - 7:57pm

    @ theakes: The same poll indicates UKIP on course to top the poll in this year’s Euro elections with Labour two points behind. This reinforces the point I made in an earlier thread that if we want to deprive UKIP of the fillip that such a result would give them , the thing to do is to vote Labour. Clegg’s ploy of giving extra air time to Farage is not helpful.

  • David Evans 16th Mar '14 - 8:09pm

    @ Paul Barker “we will be rewarded at the General Election & probably not before.” And probably not rewarded then unless Nick raises his game substantially.

  • @ Paul Barker “we will be rewarded at the General Election

    Could you be specific about how we will be rewarded at the General Election?
    Rewarded by having ten MPs? thirty MPs? Fory

  • Theakes – Dunno about local elections “last fought in 2011”. Certainly the London ones and a lot of the Mets would be last fought 2010, which means another year of heavy losses. The London Borough losses, because of proximity to national media, when combined with the Euro losses, will give Lib Dems no place to hide.

  • Chris Manners 19th Mar '14 - 4:28pm

    “The London Borough losses, because of proximity to national media”

    That’s part of it, but London does have approx the population of Scotland and Wales combined, and all the seats are up for election, which isn’t true in most local elections.

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