Double by-election GAIN in the Highlands

Today is one of those days when it is amazing to be a Lib Dem.

We have two new Liberal Democrat Councillors in the Highlands, gaining seats from Independents in Wick and East Caithness and Inverness West.

The Wick result was particularly pleasant because our 2017 result saw us in 9th and last place with 172 votes. New candidate Jill Tilt topped the poll on first preferences by 35 votes today. I’m fairly certain we got at least that many people out to vote in our polling day Maraphone today.

On paper, Inverness was a better prospect as we already have a well loved local councillor in the ward, Alex Graham. I went canvassing there at the beginning of July when I was up on holiday and it felt promising. It was great to see the fantastic Colin Aitken become our youngest councillor in Scotland.

Thanks to the Liberal Democrats in coalition with Labour, we have STV for Council elections in Scotland, which means AV for by-elections. The SNP were ahead by 40 on first preferences, but Colin won it on transfers.

I want to do a quick shout out for two people in particular. Tracey Cooper is our campaign manager up there, and Jack Clark is the organiser. The two of them created a stellar campaign for Molly Nolan, who is now in pole position to take the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross Holyrood seat next time round. So they spent 10 months working flat out on that. Then they had these by-elections, 100 miles apart to sort out. Oh, and Tracey spent some time in Chesham and Amersham as well. So they’ve not really had a break for about a year. Thank you so much to both of them.

Two particular quick lessons to learn from this double by-election triumph. First, knocking up can make the difference. We turned an unusually large number of people out to vote on our polling day maraphone last night, but an effective polling day operation can make the difference between winning and losing. Always knock up your supporters and make sure they have voted.

The second lesson is that #askhertostand works. Jill is the aunt of Rebecca Bell’s husband. Rebecca Bell was our candidate in Edinburgh Northern and Leith in May. She knew that Jill was one of those people who like to get stuff done, so she suggested standing to her. Jill’s enthusiasm and energy turned what was not the best prospect we have ever fought into a winning campaign. So, if you know a brilliant woman who would be an ideal councillor, ask her to stand.

Oh, and a big round of applause to ALDC who had a fundraising appeal email out from Colin within hours. Both campaigns had benefitted from grants from ALDC’s fighting fund to which you can donate here. 

I should also mention that we held a seat in South Lakeland with a gravity defying 66% of the vote:

And we won a town council seat in Rishi Sunak’s back yard:

We almost gained a seat from the Conservatives in East Suffolk:

It’s so important to stand everywhere, even if you don’t have the resources to campaign, to give people the chance to vote Lib Dem. That’s why I’m so glad that Emanuel Andjelic and Ruby Kirkwood stood in Weavers Ward in Tower Hamlets and in West Kilbride and Dalry in Ayrshire respectively. Ruby was a councillor in Ayrshire between 2007 and 2012 and it is so good to see her standing again.

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

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7 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 13th Aug '21 - 11:54pm

    Amazing result from Wick in complete contrast to the very poor result in North Ayrshire. Suggests that having a good local candidate plus local credibility is needed in order to have a chance of winning.

  • Roger Roberts 14th Aug '21 - 7:39am

    The most sincere congratulations on the heant warming by-election results this Thursday. With sad news from every part of the world – it was great to have the election successes to bring a smile to our faces and a million thanks to all who battle on in these most difficult of times.

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Aug '21 - 8:57am

    @Brad Barrows
    Are you claiming to be an expert on recent election history in North Ayrshire?

    According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_North_Ayrshire_Council_election there were no LibDem candidates at all in the last full elections there.

    To me this by-election result looks like ‘dipping a toe in the water’. Without the slightest hope of winning.

    However – and without knowing what work, if any, was done for this particular by-election – if 1 or 2 LD voters were found who showed any interest in getting involved that might be a step in the right direction and should be encouraged.

  • Brad Barrows 14th Aug '21 - 9:36am

    @Nonconformistradical
    Good morning. As to your main point, you are correct that the Liberal Democrats have been historically weak in North Ayrshire – that is exactly my point: the Liberal Democrats only have strength and credibility in a few parts of Scotland and achieving a couple of seats in the Highlands does not suggest a general boost in support across the country. We are just 3 months from the worst election results for the Liberal Democrats since devolution so it is too early to conclude that we are witnessing the start of a surge in support.

  • This result shows the direction of travel in the Highlands. It clearly builds on the hard work put into Molly’s campaign at the Holyrood election earlier in the year in difficult circumstances.

    Congratulations to everyone involved. The Highland LibDems should be very proud of how they’ve pulled everyone together to get these results.

  • People should note that the Wiltshire and Swindon Police and Crime Commissioner by-election is this Thursday 19th August.

    The Conservative was disqualified due to having an historic drink driving conviction.

    Through not checking their candidate was qualified the Tories have cost people the equivalent of 50 police officers.

    We were second in May so the result might prove quite interesting. There are a number of phoning and action days this week – and of course polling day on Thursday –
    https://www.libdems.org.uk/events

  • I have just spent a very enjoyable – and I have to say surprisingly enjoyable two hours doing phoning for the PCC by-election and I have to say this is going to be sensationally interesting. I had some normally Tory voters who were very irate with the former Tory candidate’s drink/drive conviction and the £1.5million/50 police officer cost of the by-election.

    Frankly this could any which way – we could come 1st or 2nd or we might come 3rd – but actually there is unlikely to be a large turnout in the middle of August so if we can drag out our vote…. and people definitely *do* need reminding that it is happening!!!!

    People who are in favour of the Progressive Alliance should note that the Greens have stood down to support us. So if you want that to gain credibility and possibly the Greens standing down in further contests a win for us would be good.

    So I would urge people if they have some time to help in some way.

    I was amazed how pleasant the “maraphone” session was (combining a zoom call with phone banking) – the Zoom call let’s you have a chat with fellow lib dems and mitigates any feelings of isolation – along with some very pleasant phone calls to voters! Actually a rather nice way to spend a Sunday morning (although I appreciate that phoning isn’t for everyone) . So a double win – a pleasant time and helping the Lib Dems 🙂 !!!!!

    It’s just possible that we could run the Tories quite close and show we are putting further cracks in the blue wall. And the bigger effort we are able to put in the more likely that is. So if you can help by phoning or perhaps as or more importantly if within striking distance of Wiltshire on the ground it might prove useful….!

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