Local council by-elections: the recovery continues

Week by week local by-election results can fluctuate greatly as the luck of the draw over which seats are up adds to the variations in local circumstances to produce a large spread of results. However, aggregated over longer periods the pattern of local by-elections does say something about the state of the parties, which is why I’ve been looking at the trend in Liberal Democrat performances since May 2011.

This following graphs show the change in the Liberal Democrat vote share in by-elections, measured since the seat was previously contested and – to even out for those factors – taken in two month averages.

The sort of consistent vote share gains seen in November and December is still a long way short of opposition heydays, but the trend has been one of consistent recovery from May’s nadir.

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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This entry was posted in Local government and News.


  • Richard Church 30th Dec '11 - 10:53am

    Yes, but in May/June very few (if any) of the by-elections will have been in seats last contested in May 2011. As time goes by, more by-elections will be in those seats, so our comparative change against the last time the seats were fought will improve as we will be starting more by-elections fromthe low 2011 base.

    Aggregate scores in three party contests might be a better long term indicator.

  • Mark – is that excluding seats we didn’t contest on either occasion? ( I assume so)

    Even so, the “base” of local election results should always be a small increase in our support because there will be an increased level of activity in at least some seats compared to when they were fought in all ups. So a small increase is actually a standstill.

  • paul barker 30th Dec '11 - 2:03pm

    On Richard Churchs point, our average Vote share over the last 3 months is about 21%. The estimates for The Local Elections in early May were 16 & 17%.

  • Paul – see Hywel’s point. Many of the May 2011 contests were all-up District elections. I think you have made this sort of point before – and been corrected. I stand corrected if that statement is in error

  • Mark, the trend has NOT been one of consistent recovery – look at the middle two numbers! What matters more is whether these numbers give any indication that May 2012 will be better than May 2011 was. Based on the recent Sunday Telegraph poll, which had extensive voting intention data in the detailed report, my local Councillors look to get wiped out in May, largely due to Lib Dem voters from 2010 being the least certain of how they will vote. But even if 100% of those who did not know how to vote ended up voting Lib Dem, very few seats would be saved. You seem complacent; I’m rather worried.

  • David Pollard 30th Dec '11 - 6:43pm

    Being in the coalition, perhaps our by-election results are more influenced by what is going on a national level than they were before. It would be interesting to include what Nick Clegg was saying or doing during those periods.

  • Tony Dawson 30th Dec '11 - 9:02pm


    “my local Councillors look to get wiped out in May,”

    It is undoubtedly the case that there will be Lib Dem losses in the coming local elections. These will be worse in some places than others but I do not think that they will be as bad, overall, as last year. That is not particularly good news as a second set of sweeping losses (even at a rather lower level), in some Met Districts, would fundamentally change the shape of the Liberal Democrats as a national political party and its ability to campaign effectively in future years. I would like to be impressed by Mark’s statistics but the sample size is a bit low and the seats involved too random to place too much reliance on such ‘trends’.

  • Don Lawrence 31st Dec '11 - 12:02am

    @ Joshua

    “take all the positives that Mark has outlined and use it to fuel a huge comeback in 2012!”

    or to quote Lord Melchett “If nothing else works, then a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through.”

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