Disappointment in Cornwall

Disappointing news from Cornwall overnight – our excellent candidate Stephen Daniell didn’t make it in his attempt to hold the seat in a by-election caused by the sad death of Paul Summers. Paul had won the seat in a by-election in July 2016 from UKIP.

Even though this wasn’t a seat we had a long connection with, it is still sad to lose. Commiserations to the team.

There was some good news though – we managed to hold on to the Town Council seat in the same ward.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • nigel hunter 10th Aug '18 - 8:50am

    This is/was good Lib Dem region in the past.It looks like the UKIP vote returned to the Tories.In areas that voted we will have to reverse their fears.

  • The Cornwall County result was very distressing with Lib Dems losing votes to Tories and Labour in almost equal measure. It would be interesting to know if there was any significant switching of votes in the last week in the face of a “We’re backing Boris” surge. We need to go into the Conference season with something under our belt – all the more reason for heading to Knaresborough this weekend!

  • gavin grant 10th Aug '18 - 9:03am

    David Raw needs to get his geography right. Last week’s defeat was in Torridge not North Devon. It came in a ward where the Tories regained it having failed to stand a candidate in their previously safe seat. Hardly a trend! Last night’s Town Council result in the same Ward on the dame boundaries and same day tells the story – “vote Red and get the Blues”.

  • nvelope2003 10th Aug '18 - 9:21am

    The Liberal Democrats lost a Town Council seat in Yeovil recently, probably due to Labour putting up a candidate and not getting many votes but just enough to hand the seat to the Conservatives. The Conservatives have only recently started contesting seats on the Town Council so they may have had untested support, although the Liberal Democrats still hold most of the seats.

  • John Marriott 10th Aug '18 - 9:24am

    What was the turnout. Looking at the votes cast it was probably low. Given the lack of council activity in August, plus the fact that people are more interested in holidays, why have any elections in this month at all? Why couldn’t they have waited until September?

  • Sorry, Caron, this IS a seat we have a long connection with, admittedly in the current state of Lib Dem councillor coverage it has been intermittent, but it is not a good sign – admittedly Mark Formosa, the Tory is fairly well known in the town.

  • Gavin Grant
    A trifle pedantic on your part perhaps? Most of Torridge District Council (named after the river, of course) is in what is described popularly as North Devon. 20 or so years ago, I helped put together the report which advocated a (failed) attempt to create a Northern Devon Unitary Council comprising both these District areas – plus some other areas. The latter “overstretch was probably what led to its failure!

  • On the other hand we have been rising steadily in The Opinion Polls since April. Averaging the last 10 Polls puts us on 9.1%.
    That doesnt seem to be working through to our Local results yet.

  • Peter Watson 10th Aug '18 - 12:05pm

    @paul barker “Averaging the last 10 Polls puts us on 9.1%.”
    There’s a risk of over-weighting frequent pollsters (e.g. YouGov which puts Lib Dems at 10%), but that figure is consistent with the nice tracker at BritainElects (http://britainelects.com/polling/westminster/).
    However, that tracker shows a similar nice steady rise in Lib Dem voting intention right up to the 2017 election, after which it fell and has still not (quite) recovered to the same level. And overall, there has been little variation since the 2015 general election (or even a year before that: http://britainelects.com/polling/trackers/).

  • Tim 13 wishing to be equally pedantic, as you know the description “North Devon” in a political context is the term ascribed to both the existing District Council and the current Parliamentary seat, the latter proposed to remain unchanged in the interim report of the Boundary Commission. As such readers less familiar with the geography of the South West are very likely to think that the previous reference was to a loss of a Lib Dem Council seat on that authority. An erroneous notion I sought to correct!

  • Tony Greaves 10th Aug '18 - 12:18pm

    Okay. But a reality check nevertheless.

  • The reality as we all know with local election results is that they are very dependant on the history of campaigning inn the ward and the intensity of each individual campaign….

    Hence wins in Sunderland and losses in Devon and Cornwall…the reality is that in many places our local organisation is non existent or unable to put up an intense campaign on the ground….hence looking at individual results and trying to draw conclusions other than the strength of the local party is ridiculous

  • Graham Jeffs 10th Aug '18 - 1:29pm

    Certainly a very odd time to have an election, hardly likely to maximise our vote.

    Sobering, isn’t it, that in spite of the squabbling in both the Tory and Labour parties that people actually go out and vote for them! Perish the thought that we should be going for ‘sound bites’ but I suspect our general lack of visibility nationally is squeezing our vote share. We could make the most profound pronouncements but the media won’t bother to report them – we need to consider whether there are any ways of countering that. It may have been the case for much of the past fifty years, but I sense that it is even worse now. Fake news includes what isn’t reported.

  • Ian Patterson 10th Aug '18 - 1:32pm

    Our run of spectulars has come to a halt of late. As the south west was a traditional strong hold for decades, our revival is not deep in those places. And please remember both Lab and Tories have been through spasms of late, this appears not to have reached Cornwall and Devon.

  • Yes, David Raw, you are correct, except the constituency is actually called Torridge West Devon, which is most of the old Torrington seat to which you refer, plus some of the old Tavistock seat – beloved of Michael Heseltine!

  • Some notes on the Cornwall Council result:

    Assuming the same electorate as May 2017 (and it will be slightly different) – turnout yesterday was 25% against 35% in 2017.

    Andrew Teale on Britain Elects has previous results (with turnouts taken from Cornwall Council’s website – based on the electorate at the time which seem in any case to have only varied by about 100).

    May 2017 result LD 753 C 351 – turnout 35%
    July 2016 by-election LD 486 Lab 87 Ind 58 – turnout 21% (note this is the result from the Cornwall Council website – Andrew Teale seems to have mistakenly added in a Conservative candidate)
    May 2013 result UKIP 266 C 237 LD 218 Lab 156 – turnout 35%

    And in 2009, Cornwall Council has : Independent 333 (31%), Conservative 305 (29%), Liberal Democrat 278 (26%), Green Party 100 (9%), Independent 53 (5%) – turnout 35%

    So it does seem for whatever reason we got a vote in 2017 and the 2016 by-election that was out of line and much higher than had been the case in the past. Obviously Labour standing when they didn’t in 2017 may have eaten into the Lib Dem vote. And in 2013 there was a high-ish UKIP vote and so is probably quite a high leave voting area which of course makes it more difficult for the Lib Dems.

    In summary while Cornwall may be a good area for the Lib Dems traditionally – it seems this seat hasn’t been until the past two years – may be due to a personal vote for the councillor that sadly passed away. A comparison with 2009, for example would indicate a national vote share equivalent (in local elections) well above 20%.


    This is not to offer excuses for the Lib Dem vote – quite the opposite and I think it is important to look also at local factors when we do well or the same. Overall as a guide to national voting the important thing is to use averages over a long-ish period of time to average out the “noise” from the signal.

    On the Britain Elects list of opinion polling – I note that it includes for me at least a new company Deltapoll – their website which doesn’t reveal much about them I can’t see them being a member of the British Polling Council.

  • A correction!

    While the Cornwall Council website regarding the July 2016 by-election result is as I noted – in fact it seems that it is wrong and not Andrew Teale. The council also has a pdf of the official declaration including a Conservative and this was reported at the time.


    So the result of the by-election in July 2016 was:
    July 2016 by-election LD 486 C 210 Lab 87 Ind 58 – turnout 28%

  • OnceALibDem 10th Aug '18 - 3:26pm

    Drawing such extensive conclusions from one single by-election in an area where personalities are known to be important (and the victor is described as fairly well known) seems a pointless bit of pseophological onanism

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Aug '18 - 4:19pm

    Both Cornwall and Devon Lib Dems suffered of course a strong reaction against the Coalition having been formed with the Tories. With their loss of support, Labour and UKIP had the chance of sowing seeds in fresh ground after 2015. Now in by-elections a low turn-out might suggest only the committed voters are turning up?

    Judging by the June General Election, it seemed that both counties had maintained or grown again strong organisations, but local affairs and local candidates will influence particular elections in the volatile situation in that region. I think incomers retiring from the South East may also possibly be a factor in depressing the local Lib Dem support.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Aug '18 - 5:19pm

    With the sort of mean and snobbish comment from David here, against people rather like him from Yorkshire to Scotland doing so , South East to South West, little surprise they might feel more comfortable with their vote for the Tories, who do not judge or criticise their perfectly wholesome and understandable move to a healthy climate i an area they may contribute much to, such as charitable input, rather like the foodbank David so admirably and regularly shares his involvement on, here…

    When this party stpos denigrating the mainstream, such as people who favour a faith school or a nice retirement, we might see an increase in support…then again…

  • John Marriott 10th Aug '18 - 5:47pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin
    Sorry you find David Raw’s comments “mean and snobbish”. It’s a fact that the influx of moneyed retirees to the South West has had an obvious impact on house prices there as it has on house prices where I live. If you don’t like hearing the truth and prefer to view the world in pastel shades, fair enough. But don’t criticise those of us who are prepared to call it like it really is!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Aug '18 - 6:12pm

    John Marriott

    You can and should say something that illustrates the point but does not insult and insinuate. David could towards decent folk who seek a good life, you too, could with me likewise.

    I understand about house prices, because unlike most of the “liberals” who mock, I lost my house, have been through much, rent and loath that rather than now have my own property. I had relocated from London to Nottingham after a car accident that leaves my wife with permanent disability aspects, to work in a field that might, unlike in London, allow us to become home owners. It did, but when the work dried up, so too again, our finances suffered, we had to get back on our feet, literally, in the case of my wife. If our move had meant house prices went up in our new city because some had sold in the south, it is better than an area nobody wants to move to, but move from. The people f Cornwall want to find out more about Blackpool!

    I believe in local solutions and eternal values. My solutions and values do not need to denigrate those some do , this, more than a home move , really does…downsize!

  • OnceALibDem 10th Aug '18 - 9:36pm

    “Judging by the June General Election, it seemed that both counties had maintained or grown again strong organisations”

    Average increase in Cornish seats – +1.1%
    Average increase in Devon seats held by LD since 1997 +0.3%
    Average decrease in all Devon seats excluding Plymouth -0.5%

    The evidence is patchy at best. Stage one of solving an electoral problem is realising you have one.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Aug '18 - 1:18am

    I don’t dispute the figures, OnceALibDem; I was simply judging by my experience of helping in the June Election, where I found impressive organisation, and by my continued knowledge of the situation in North Devon through my activist friend there.

    David, I should have thought that by now some of the Brexiters of the south-west as in Cumbria would have changed their minds – for instance, some of the farmers.

    Lorenzo, I don’t know about recommending a move to Blackpool, unless you want to dance like our Leader, but I keep telling people that if they want cheaper housing with a wonderful sea view they should consider Whitehaven. Driving there from Cockermouth, I always marvel at the scores of little houses perched on the cliffs above the sea, with the view rounding to Whitehaven harbour. Fine beaches nearby too, for instance in St Bees and Seascale, and as for the climate, much more equable than in the south-east!

  • William Fowler 11th Aug '18 - 8:24am

    Weird that LibDems should complain about the free movement of people in the UK when they are all for it in the EU (where the differences in house prices can be much higher than between London and Devon)… also weird that the LibDems are not benefiting from being part of a govn that in retrospect did a good job compared to the current mess… turn-out is so small in these elections that you can’t really extrapolate from them.

  • nvelope2003 11th Aug '18 - 8:40am

    Voting Liberal Democrat or Liberal has always been partly a protest vote – formerly against the landlords and now against the political elite who mostly support Remaining in the EU, political correctness, comprehensive schools etc so it is not surprising that the Liberal vote has dropped in the South West although many people here do support those things but some have moved to Labour. The anti establishment people who went to UKIP have now moved to the Conservatives so giving them a boost and enabling them to win former Liberal Democrat seats. A sustained Liberal revival is unlikely until the EU issue has been settled and the party puts forward policies which are not just in the interest of the establishment. I see no sign of that at present so the voters see no point in voting for us. If you want to maintain the status quo vote Labour.
    I can see that this creates a great dilemma for our party.

  • William Fowler 11th Aug ’18 – 8:24am:
    Weird that LibDems should complain about the free movement of people in the UK when they are all for it in the EU…

    Indeed; although not nearly as hypocritical as Remain voters who complain about building houses on the green belt.

  • Not all the incomers or internal migrants to the South West are Tories and there were plenty of them here before. Quite a lot of the Liberal Democrats and Labour people are incomers and in some cases it was the incomers who created the Lib Dem upsurge in 1997. The money brought in by incomers has transformed some of the miserable little villages that I remember into lovely places to live and now the sort of people who wanted to move into the towns when I was young are now complaining that they cannot afford a house in their home village. Not everyone wants to live in the country. Children say there is nothing to do and they have long bus rides to school. Even the retired people complain about the lack of public transport, especially when they no longer wish to drive. However, many incomers have contributed a great deal to the life of rural areas and are sometimes more dynamic and outward looking than the local population who are often the main source of UKIP type supporters as they fear outsiders. Industries have been established here which require specialist labour which cannot always be found locally o incomers have to be recruited. It is not as simple as some seem to believe. Real life can be complicated and what seems so obvious to those without full knowledge is not necessarily so.

  • No other way to look at this as a rank bad result. Won the seat in 2016 & 2017. 30% drop in percentage vote. It does not bode at all well. We are simply talking to ourselves not the public. Headquarters, Lib Dem Voice need to say this. We consistently hide behind a presentation of how well we are really doing, when we in reality we are not, it has gone of for so long now, ever since the coalition. Will we never learn. Frankly I feel the future lies in a new Centre Party, this after 55 years with and in the Liberals.

  • OnceALibDem 11th Aug '18 - 1:21pm

    @Theakes – to draw conclusions as profound as those from one by-election in a notoriously personality dependent part of the country is frankly on the extreme crazy wing of psephology.

  • nvelope2003 11th Aug '18 - 2:29pm

    theakes: Who would lead the new Centre Party and how would it succeed without proportional representation when the SDP did not in more favourable circumstances ?
    However, I can see only too well from the posts on this site and from those that do not appear that radical new thinking is desperately needed and perhaps that can only come from a new party, although the programmes put forward by some of these new parties do not seem very original.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Aug '18 - 6:54pm

    Well, we are getting there then, aren’t we, Joe? That’s not the only recent article recommending land-value taxes. But there is still the difficulty that Labour has, as you say, occupied the centre-left position, and that should be ours. That we vie with Labour on progressive policies has been a problem for a century. Perhaps, on the other hand, the Socialist bent of the current Labour party offers us the chance of taking more of our rightful place in national politics. There was a reasonable Times article recently offering a detailed explanation of why Jeremy Corbyn should never be Prime Minister.

    nvelope 2003, that was an interesting post about the value of incomers to the south-west. You sound to be a native. But I suspect that, no matter how much the incomers contribute to the development of rural life, the majority will continue to vote Tory.

  • Robert Irwin 12th Aug '18 - 3:34pm

    I’m on the Exec in St Austell & Newquay. It’s a bitter disappointment as our team worked really hard, but the Tories seemed to be everywhere – the MP and five councillors were doorstepping at one point.

    Labour put up a candidate who pulled just enough votes to swing the result to the Tories. I suppose he would say that there is no difference between LDs and Tories anyway. He cut a sad figure, alone at the count, unsupported by his Party.

    I stood for parish council last month and got stuffed by an Independent, but onwards and upwards! We will regroup and move forward.

  • nvelope2003 14th Aug '18 - 4:59pm

    Katharine Pindar: Thank you for your support. Yes I am a native of the West of England. There have been many changes in my lifetime, there as elsewhere in the country. I am afraid some of the incomers have come because they do not like living alongside people from other lands but we have quite a lot of Chinese and some Indians here now. In the Sunday school of the now closed non conformist chapel there were pictures of children from many lands. Maybe people were kinder then (and a lot poorer).

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