Finally, a little bit of sunshine

Before I say anything else, I just want to send a virtual hug to all those valiant Lib Dem campaigners who put their heart and soul into their wards and didn’t win.   Unlike many others in recent years, though, you can see a glimmer of hope for the future. I hope you can see that you’ll get it next  time. There will be many who like Claire who lost by 2 and Elspeth who lost by 90 ish for whom there is a way in.

Even in my wildest moments of optimism, I didn’t envisage us gaining quite as many seats as we have today.  The results prove that people are ready, not just to talk to us again, but to head down the polling station and vote for us again. Everyone’s talking about us doing well. As I pointed out last night, anything over 43 gains would be our second best result in our entire existence as a party for this particular set of elections. We actually got 75. Now that doesn’t rebuild the 440 we’ve lost since 2010, but it gives us a foothold.

Look at what we’ve done. I’d heard good things about South Cambridgeshire and was pleased when they absolutely smashed it. One of my people of the day is Bridget Smith, the new Council Leader, who has exactly the right attitude for that sort of thing:

There were amazing results in Kingston and Richmond and Three Rivers too. We held off the Tories in Sutton – that caused me a few palpitations about 3am, I’ll tell you. John Leech has a partner to back him up in Manchester. Gains in Hull, Oxfordshire, holding on to South Lakeland, getting back Three Rivers, Peter Taylor winning the Watford mayoralty. Holding on to Eastleigh and Cheltenham.

We seem to have a pretty diverse bunch of councillors elected. Great to see that of the 39 councillors in Kingston, 22 are women and the Council leader is female. I’ve shamelessly nicked that from a post Mary made elsewhere, so credit to her or sharing it.

Our 75 gains are way ahead of anyone else’s. The official opposition only managed 59.

A massive thanks to everyone who made this happen. They didn’t just start campaigning in April. They’ve been at this through the hard Winter, knocking on doors, delivering leaflets, getting posters ready, planning and delivering campaigns that connected with people.

So what now? Well, we’ve spent 7 years climbing up a steep hill with the wind in our faces and with more than our fair share of snow, rain and hail. Now we’ve emerged into a bit of sunshine. But we can’t stop. Well, maybe we can look at the view and smile a bit, and feel the warmth of the sun. But then we climb some more. But this time we advance with the confidence of an unexpectedly good night behind us. We’re getting ourselves back in the game. We need to build on this.

Party members got a nice email from Vince tonight. There have been times when I’ve hit the roof at thoughtless results day emails, but this one worked:

Today we’re enjoying our best set of local election results in a decade.

I want to thank you for everything you’ve done to help make this happen.

I am so immensely grateful to every single one of our candidates, our members and activists and our dedicated party staff who made these results possible.

He had a special mention for those who didn’t get in:

For those that didn’t quite get there this time, my message is this – thank you for your efforts, please keep it up and your time will come.

And there’s a call to arms:

We need to use these results as a springboard for our campaign to stop Brexit, our battle to protect our NHS and in our campaigns for the 2019 local elections – which are well underway in many places already!

Please do enjoy today and this weekend – you’ve earnt it.

We have some big challenges ahead, but I can see from today’s results that our party is ready to face them.

Thank you again for everything you’ve done and will continue to do to help change our country for the better.

We must never forget that we actually have a job of work to do. Our core mission as Liberal Democrats is all about creating that world where no-oine is enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We’re so far away from that.

None of us will be shedding any tears at the demise of UKIP, but we can’t just say “don’t let the door hit your backside on the way out.” Their divisive prejudice still pollutes our politics. It’s up to us to present a positive vision to offer real hope to those who are struggling. We have to build these houses, invest in public services and make sure that people have enough money to meet their basic needs.

Vince talked in his conference speech about the country being embroiled in a non violent civil war. If you have the houses and services and money, there is no reason to blame the other.

It’s a massive job and we have to get on with it.

I’ll leave you with a final thought.

I suppose we have to let the team at LDHQ away with this today, but they shouldn’t make a habit of it.

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

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12 Comments

  • Also Lib Dems came within one gain of taking Winchester now having 22 councillors to the Tories 23.

  • David Pocock 5th May '18 - 8:46am

    As a slight aside I noted a few of the lib dems on the were making the point that you don’t have to vote right wing Tory brexit or left wing corbynista. I think this is a good message and a good attack really, if it wasn’t intentional we should adopt it IMO.

    Poor ukip… Hehe.

  • John Marriott 5th May '18 - 9:46am

    Was it the party’s stance on Brexit that produced the revival? Possibly as far as London was concerned, given it had a strong presence in certain boroughs anyway. I would rather like to believe that the age of multi party politics may be starting to return (the sort of “end of the beginning” stuff).

    Quite frankly, looking at the smirks from Raab and Thornberry at comments Sal Brinton was making on BBC Two, not forgetting the gratuitous disdain shown by Watson to Layla Moran in another section, it makes me realise why I rejected the ‘old’ parties many decades ago.

    However, I urge the new enthusiasts to be careful. As they say, one swallow doesn’t make a summer. Iain BB may be right in his extrapolation in an area where Lib Dems have had strong roots; but spare a thought for the East Midlands, and my county of Lincolnshire in particular, where success has been hard to achieve in the past and has now virtually disappeared.

    16% is a level of support that many Liberal parties around the world would die for. Don’t mention Canada, as the Liberal Party there is a very different animal. It’s just a real scandal that that level of support is not reflected in the results. It ought to have given the party around 700 councillors instead of around 500. But we blew the chance for electoral reform, didn’t we?

    So, let’s now hear more from the Lib Dems about other issues such as proper devolution for England and proper meaningful reform of Local Government structure and finance. And yes, AT LEAST a penny on Income Tax to be ringfenced for the NHS!

  • Peter Hirst 5th May '18 - 12:10pm

    For me, the question is why we didn’t do even better. I think one answer is that psychologically, many pundits and people think we’re an endangered species. There is that credibility gap to bridge. Now, thanks to those who fought so hard, it’s going to be that bit easier next time round so roll on May 2019.

  • John Roffey 5th May '18 - 12:59pm

    @ John Marriott: “16% is a level of support that many Liberal parties around the world would die for. Don’t mention Canada, as the Liberal Party there is a very different animal. It’s just a real scandal that that level of support is not reflected in the results. It ought to have given the party around 700 councillors instead of around 500. But we blew the chance for electoral reform, didn’t we?”

    I would suggest the first target for the Party is to become the third largest party in the HofC again – currently the SNP have 35 MPs . If this is to be achieved in the foreseeable future I do believe that the Party’s present strategy will require some serious reflection.

  • If the Canadian Liberals are “a very different animal” to the Liberal Democrats, then maybe it’s a sort of animal we should consider becoming.

  • John Marriott 5th May '18 - 4:39pm

    @David-1

    When I was living in Canada in the early 1970s politics at Federal level was very much a buggins turn between the Liberal Party, led by Pierre Trudeau and the ‘Progressive Conservatives’ led by Robert Stansfield, both of which occupied a position to the right of centre. The New Democratic Party, which we would have equated to our Labour Party, was yet to make an impact.

    I appreciate that times have changed and both of the founding parties of the Dominion have had hard times, with quite volatile fluctuations of support; but it would seem at the moment that they have managed to stay close to power, with the Liberal Party, under Pierre’s son, Justin, currently in charge. When did we last have a Liberal Government here?. We would have to go back to before WW1.

  • Richard Underhill 5th May '18 - 6:05pm

    In the 1997 general election Liberal Democrats won Winchester by 2 (two) votes. Letters to Liberal Democrat News asked for better results. There had been multiple recounts and arguments about spoilt ballots, so the Tories brought a case before the Election Court, which could not decide either and ordered a bye-election. The by election, held on 20 November, was won with a majority of 21,556. The Tory candidate said he would not stand again.
    So, when you go to the count look at the walls and remind other counting agents of the court rulings. For instance a cross is not essential, a tick will do, provided the intention of the voter is clear, even a 1 as in first preference is acceptable.
    A Liberal agent in Criccieth spotted a sheaf of 20 votes in the Conservative pile and asked for a recount, which was granted. The winner by 18 votes was a local solicitor, David Lloyd George.
    [ISBN 978-0-00-721949-0, page 109]

  • Richard Underhill 5th May '18 - 6:22pm

    David-1 5th May ’18 – 3:18pm “If the Canadian Liberals are “a very different animal” to the Liberal Democrats, then maybe it’s a sort of animal we should consider becoming.”
    The context is different because Canada is federal and is “sleeping with an elephant” the USA. The PQ also affect issues. It helps to have a bilingual PM.
    See also ISBN 1 90230 121 8 In my own time.

  • Andrew Carey 5th May '18 - 11:14pm

    Well done to the Lib Dem campaign class of 2018. My concern is that you were rather light on policy, and you’ve got some good ones ( I think ) such as on decriminalising or legalising drugs and prostitution, safe standing, and devolving more powers to local authorities ( but which ones? – planning would be my choice ). No-one wondered why around 1.5 million people get taken to court each year over unpaid council tax and business rates ( surely the court system’s number one throughput ). The other large parties, apart from the tree-huggers didn’t present any local policies that I was aware of. I can’t put the successes down to being right on key policies that interest the public, so I can only put the success of the Lib Dems down to hard work.

  • Richard Underhill 6th May '18 - 12:19pm

    Frequent reviews of the rates were not done by previous central governments leading MPs to say that the system was “broken”. They introduced the Community Charge (Poll Tax) which was unpopular and was followed in 1992 by the Council Tax and an increase in VAT. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribble_Valley_by-election,_1991. Many campaigners made profitable bets according to Liberal Democrat News.

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