Local elections 2013 live blog…..

09:56 Caron:

And we start off with some good news from Ashfield. Simon Hughes has just said on BBC Breakfast that it looks like we have held our seats and got the youngest councillor in the country elected.

10:10 Stephen:

10:26 Caron:

Congratulations to Lib Dem Voice’s Sara Bedford on her election as County Councillor for Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire.

10:29 Caron:

The Telegraph has its own spin on Tim Farron’s appearance on the Today programme, majoring on his comments on South Shields and glossing over his comments about where we are doing well:

The Westminster battleground seats are where it’s at, ad for the Lib Dems, South Shields is one extreme, where we’ve got little strength on the ground and we got obliterated.”

In areas such as Cheltenham, Taunton, Eastbourne, mid-Dorset, which are crucial to the Lib Dems’ prospects of avoiding disaster at the next general election, the party is doing “extremely well” in the council polls.

Most of our battles are against the Tories, and against the Tories we’re doing extremely well.

And they have some added Lembit if you like that sort of thing:

Lembit Opik, the former Lib Dem MP, demanded a “credible explanation from Nick Clegg regarding the recovery strategy” following the “appalling” South Shields result.

Mr Opik, who lost his Montgomeryshire seat in 2010, said: “Veteran members deserve to know how this electoral crisis will be fixed.

I presume, as I approach my 30th anniversary as a party member, that I count as a veteran member. I don’t think I’ll be looking to Lembit for advice, somehow.

11:02 Stephen:

A typically acute take on the Lib Dem dilemma from the New Statesman’s Rafael Behr:

The Lib Dems have completed their journey to something

Seventh place in the South Shields by-election, on less than 2 per cent of the vote. Ouch. Elsewhere, the Lib Dems had a predictably grim night, although they have managed to defend some bastions and their vote has held together in areas where they also hold the Westminster seat. In other words, where they are dug in and can muster some force for a fight, they are still in the game – which will give some cause for encouragement in a general election. In two thirds of Lib Dem Westminster seats, the Tories are in second place. If a bunch of Conservative voters switch to UKIP and Labour voters tactically, Clegg’s party could have a half decent number of “holds” on a dismal national share of the vote. (The irony is not wasted on Lib Dems that this means the first-past-the-post electoral system is now their friend, while AV would have substantially alleviated Cameron’s UKIP headache. )

But that doesn’t answer the question of what the Lib Dems are for. They plainly aren’t scooping up protest votes or disgruntled anti-Blair, pacifist leftists any more. They are the moderate, technocratic pro-austerity-but-more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger party. They can scrape through a general election on that platform but only just. And beyond that? The Lib Dems have heard a door slam shut behind them and can’t yet see one opening in front of them.

The whole piece – Local elections: seven early thoughts on what they mean – is well worth reading.

11:17 Stephen:

A couple of pieces of good news…



11.32 Stephen:

Important stat from Phil Reilly, the Lib Dems’ deputy head of media:


And here’s a Lib Dem blast-from-the-past — former Teignbridge MP Richard Younger-Ross (who lost Newton Abbot at the 2010 election) is back:

11:43 Caron:

Disappointing news from north of the Border, where hopes had been high of a good result in the Leaderdale and Melrose by-election. The Borders Party held the seat in a by-election caused by their councillor moving away.

Good news from Ashfield, though:

And we have taken Pendle Central from the Conservatives.


12:04 Stephen:

An interesting post by Lib Dem blogger Richard Morris over at the New Statesman. He was all set for ‘a bit of spleen venting this morning when I woke up to be greeted with the South Shields by-election result‘, but then he looked a bit more closely at what’s happening in today’s local elections:

… whisper it gently, but so far, the other council election results indicate the green shoots of recovery in the Lib Dems’ support. Now, those green shoots may have a certain straw-like quality as I clutch at them but so far, we seem set to lose only around half the number of seats suggested by the Rallings and Thrasher forecasts. And more to the point, we’re doing well in areas that reflect where we hold Parliamentary seats – taking around 33 per cent of the vote (to the Tories’ 31 per cent and UKIP’s 22 per cent). Given the party looks set to adopt a ‘keep what we’ve got’ strategy for 2015, we look on track to achieve just that. And so far we’re taking around 16 per cent of the overall vote, which, given recent polls, many in the party would bite your hand off to achieve.

He even sees the good in the rise of Ukip:

Plus there’s more good news for the Lib Dems – the success of UKIP. If UKIP were to take 25 per cent of the vote across the country in a general election, the chances are they’d take… 0 seats. The lowest winning vote share in 2010 was 29.4 per cent, higher than UKIP has ever achieved in a Westminster poll. Which says two things if you’re a Lib Dem. Firstly, UKIP (not a party which we have much in common with) may reduce the Tory vote, helping us to beat them, but are unlikely to win themselves. And were UKIP and the Lib Dems to jointly achieve 40 per cent in a general election and end up with a handful of seats, the pressure to reopen the electoral reform debate would be almost irresistible…

You can read the full post here.

12:15 Stephen:

Quick update to Caron’s point (11:43, above) above about the good Lib Dem results in Ashfield in Nottinghamshire:


Meanwhile, Mark Pack is looking at the BBC projection of the vote shares:


And so’s The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow:


12:33 Stephen:

Unsurprising news of the day — Tim Farron and his Cumbrian team have once again proved their campaigning credentials:


Oh, and here’s my attempt to look on the bright side:


13:12 Stephen:

Two reactions from Lib Dem MPs to Ukip’s success. First Vince Cable (via PoliticsHome):

“I think we’ve got to take the UKIP phenomenon seriously. We don’t know where they’re heading, whether this is temporary or permanent – we’ve got to think carefully about how we deal with it. I think it’s a mixture of things – I mean, there is a general protest, but it’s added to the fact that we’re in a major economic crisis. It’s a bit like the phenomenon you’ve seen in Italy – a new party [Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement] coming from nowhere, not apparently standing for anything very much, with a sense of humour, not sort of nasty fascist – but very much the populist right.”

Then Jeremy Browne (via the Guardian), who reckons it’s an anti-Westminster political class reaction. He singled out the victory speech given by the new Labour MP for South Shields, Emma Lewell-Buck, for particular criticism:

It was the most stage-managed, phoney, inauthentic poltical display that you could ever see on television. She just repeated all the same mantras about millionaires and bedrooms. And I thought doesn’t she have any views of her own? Why isn’t the Labour party letting her speech? Why isn’t there any authenticity in this stage managed occasion? And I think all of the political parties in Westminster need to think about what Ukip are saying when Ukip say politics has become disconnected from people.

13:15 Stephen:

It’s not all grim up north for the Lib Dems:


And it’s definitely good news in Watford:


And a major scalp for the party in Cambridgeshire:


13:26 Stephen:

First projection of what this kind of vote would mean for the House of Commons at the next election (I know, I know: chances of thse votes, let alone the c.30% turn-out, being repeated in 2015 is miniscule, but still) — it comes from Sky News and shows the Lib Dems would have 52 MPs:

14:00 Caron: 

Interesting admission in the Guardian Northern Blog from Kevin Meagher, Associate Editor of Labour Uncut, admitting that Labour may find it hard to make inroads in Nick Clegg’s seat:

Labour last week began its process to find a candidate to stand against Clegg in 2015. Despite fighting talk that a good campaign focusing on Clegg’s “betrayal” could unseat the Lib Dem Leader, the result in Fulwood offers a psephological clue that rumours of the party’s political demise in their northern redoubts like Sheffield may be exaggerated.

Many of us spent yesterday phoning voters in Abingdon South in Oxfordshire imploring people to vote for Neil Fawcett as he lost by 82 votes last time. It worked – he won by 252.

The full result of the Scottish Borders by-election is now available. As we have STV for local Government (another Lib Dem achievement), by-elections are conducted under AV. This is yet another example of the Tories coming top in terms of first preferences, only to lose out on transfers. The Borders Party won, and by the end of the penultimate stage, there were only 135 votes separating the Borders Party in 1st and Liberal Democrat John Paton Day in 3rd.

14:31: Stephen:

Here’s the party’s latest number crunching:

14:37: Caron

The Northumberland result was always going to be a worry. And the result justified the apprehension. We made massive gains last time when Labour were at their lowest point and have been running a minority administration since. Sadly, 15 of our 26 councillors lost their seats. If there are silver linings to be found, they are mostly in Berwick, Sir Alan Beith’s seat, where we held 3 divisions.

14:45 Caron: 

The Liberal Democrats have also unseated the Conservative leader in Cambridgeshire. That comes on top of a gain from the Tories in Grant Shapp’s seat.


14:58 Stephen:

To be clear, I’m not saying this counts as a good Lib Dem result: it isn’t, by any stretch of the imagination. But – compared to the expectations – our losses are (so far) lighter than forecast:


Meanwhile the BBC has at last released its own estimated share of the national vote, weighted to be representative of the entire UK. And it makes quite remarkable reading:

Labour: 29%
Conservatives: 25%
Ukip: 23%
Lib Dems: 14%

That’s right: Labour and the Tories between them barely secure half the vote – and no single party looks like it’ll clear 30%. That is genuinely astonishing.

15:09 Caron: 

Oxfordshire County Council goes from true blue to no overall control with gains for Labour….and….3 gains for the Liberal Democrats, including Neil Fawcett in Abingdon South. Labour gained a seat in David Cameron’s Witney constituency.

And a quick thought on the UKIP surge. I’ve seen something like this before. In the Scottish Parliament election of 2003, in a result that was supposed to spell the end of politics as we know it, 7 Greens and 6 socialists were elected. They took more votes from Labour and the SNP than they did from the Liberal Democrats. Interestingly, that relative weakening of Labour’s position enabled Liberal Democrats to make sure they got STV for local government through.  Anyway, how many of the 13 were left at the subsequent election? 2 Greens. They failed to make an impact, or at least one that people liked to see. I know local government is different to a national parliament, but we’ll have to see how useful these UKIP councillors turn out to be in terms of serving their communities.

15:24 Stephen:

Mark Pack has highlighted on his blog the big change in 2013’s local elections compared to last year’s… what we might term ‘The Ukip effect’:


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This entry was posted in News.


  • Eddie Sammon 3rd May '13 - 11:14am

    Nonsense comment from Stephen I’m afraid. People need to stop looking down on the electorate as petulant children who need to protest.

    The rise of UKIP is mainly to do with Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem voters feeling betrayed. The blame lies with us, not the public.

    We need to stop pestering the hell out of them when it comes to election time, remove Clegg for the Tuition fee thing and stop doing things in government that wasn’t mentioned in anyone’s manifesto.

    Our politicians seem to lack courage, they criticise corporations for being short termist and miss-selling to the public, yet we do exactly the same. All this spinning, scaremongering and pestering has to stop; there’s no respect. Cold calling until 10pm at night? What a stupid idea.

  • The rise of Ukip is very much due to a recession that was caused by the finacial crisis.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd May '13 - 12:18pm

    People are also voting for them for positive reasons, I don’t want to say it’s purely the three main parties’ fault.

  • Steve Griffiths 3rd May '13 - 1:19pm

    @Simon Shaw

    “Firstly, where and when does anyone cold call until 10pm at night?”

    I have been a Lib Dem agent many times and in close fights we always carried on knocking up until close of poll. And it worked, people would still be putting there coats on and getting out to vote, even 15 minutes before close of poll. As a result of full canvassing and local knowledge, I knew where the elderly and vulnerable were and knocked them up by lunchtime on polling day, just like many well organsised wards and agents. A nonsense comment from the pair of you.

  • Steve Griffiths 3rd May '13 - 1:21pm

    Apologies – ‘their coats’. poor english in haste.

  • Paul Pettinger 3rd May '13 - 1:22pm

    I don’t know how bad things have to get Eddie . I genuinely thought had the roles been somehow reversed between Labour and the Lib Dems, that the Lib Dems would have got rid of a leader like Gordon Brown in 2009. However, we seem to be collectively even more blinded and directionless. The Party is being turned into a Uk version of Germany’s FDP – it is heart breaking. Nick Clegg still has a job though, so it’s not all bad…

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd May '13 - 1:37pm

    Simon, Stephen’s comment says that UKIP’s rise can be explained simply because they haven’t been in government in recent years and Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives have. In my opinion that is an incorrect analysis. If it wasn’t for UKIP’s anti immigration and traditional tory policies they would be nowhere.

    Regarding the phone calls: yesterday I received an email from central office, as a user of Connect, asking me to call right up until 10pm. They have said this several times before. During the Eastleigh campaign we were phoning the same people all week, some several times per day, and many were getting angry down the phone – this type of activity clearly costs votes.

    All year they keep wanting me to post on my facebook about this £600 tax break – I’m sure it starts to annoy people after a while. They even wanted me to bang on about it on Christmas day.

    I’m not saying it explains UKIP’s rise but I think it is an example of how we need to show a bit more respect. Overall I think we electorate have a huge problem with how the three main parties treat the public and I think this needs to change.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd May '13 - 1:40pm

    Steve Griffiths, you say it is a nonsense comment to complain about cold calling at 10pm at night but I’m not even calling people I know and many have already voted and received calls that day!

  • There was an interesting post on another thread from some in Cornwall whose name began with A. I was just reading it and my pc crashed and now I can’t find it. Could that person repost or could someone point me in the right direction?

  • Max Wilkinson 3rd May '13 - 1:51pm

    I just heard a young chap on Five Live explain why he voted UKIP: Lib Dems broke the tuition fee promise; Labour got us into this mess; I don’t like the Tories; we give to much money to Europe.

    I’d say that’s pretty representative of the mainstream view.

  • Peter Watson 3rd May '13 - 2:33pm

    We cannot afford to ignore UKIP, dismiss them as the new home for protest votes, or assume it’s only a problem for Labour and Conservatives. These voters aren’t abandoning us for the Greens or independents, so there must be something in UKIP’s message that attracts voters. In a simplistic way, my gut-feeling is that UKIP appeals to working class voters who feel threatened by immigration, who are angry about a perceived benefits culture, and who are socially conservative. These voters feel let down by a socially liberal middle-class Labour party and a conservative party in the pockets of big business which favours cheap imported labour. Certainly the truth is much more complicated than that, but it is possible that UKIP might find long-lasting support from a section of the electorate which does not fully understand its position away from the dog-whistle issues.
    Horror stories about useless UKIP councillors are unlikely to emerge (or be reported by a sympathetic press) before even greater success in next year’s european elections (compounded if there are local elections at the same time), building upon a narrative of UKIP’s rise as we approach 2015.

  • Surprised nobody has commented on regional aspect to UKIP rise. Their big gains in councillors are from Lincolnshire southwards.

    Now for the speculation – this is likely because their rose-tinted view of the past doesn’t have much resonance in the North.

  • 15:24 Stephen, you might call it “the UKIP effect”. I would call it the “spurious correlaton effect”. (Although if I am right about that, it suggests that Labour are actually doing rather badly).

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd May '13 - 3:51pm

    Neither do I Simon. I never actually called anyone at 10pm by the way, I stopped just after 9. 🙂

  • @Peter Watson
    “Horror stories about useless UKIP councillors are ……”
    Of course, the real nightmare scenario for the LibLabCon parties is if they don’t appear at all, this from the Beeb news feed just now:
    “1632: Polling expert John Curtice says: “The best UKIP performance of the day seems to be in Ramsey in Cambridgeshire, where the party won no less than 67% of the vote. This is the place where UKIP has a majority on the town council. The party will claim this is a vote of confidence in its existing record of local government.””

  • what is the size of the protest vote?
    what is the size of the floating vote?
    what is the size of the tribal vote?
    which party gains most from personal votes?

    answer these four questions and the picture becomes clearer.

    UK politics is experiencing a continuing period of gradual pluralisation which is becoming more apparent with every passing year, and this is the product of the growth of deep liberal attitudes as society comes to terms with the concept of a democracy which is truly representative.

    There is a long way to go, but we can celebrate that the train has left the station.

    LibDems should be grateful for the rise of new parties with different voices, freely expressing the concerns of different ideological constituencies. It is a triumph of the philosophy of freedom and civic participation which Liberal Democrats most closely represent. Despite the appearance of declining polling fortunes, it is proof that we have broken the hegemony of vested interests with the product that power is being successfully devloved back to the people.

    No single party is going to form a majority government at the next election and political debate will be healthier for it as a result. No longer will the country suffer from policies promoted by divisive leaders with illegitimate majorities, and this will provide a more effective filter to weed out less serious and polarising figures.

    Pluralisation creates a more positive political dynamic to address the underlying problems individuals and groups try to sweep under the carpet, and a political ecology with multiple serious parties makes violent confrontation (such as the miner’s strike, or the Iraq war) or corruption (such as unequal application of rules or financial abuses) that much less likely.

    This truly is the ‘new’ politics!

    It is the dawning of a liberal age!

  • Helen Dudden 8th May '13 - 9:48am

    I agree, the electorate are not stupid far from it.

    I voted and campaigned for Don Foster in Bath, being told that a Labour vote was a wasted vote. Many years ago.

    Well Don has spent most of his time in this government on the side of the Conservatives, he even went dressed up to one of their conferences. I would say that we take seriously the attitude of those who should respect where they were put by the voters. It seems a little forgotten. I have changed my party, not as a protest vote, but a vote for a stable situation. Europe has problems and what was the saying? Nero fiddled as Rome burned.

    One more thing, is it time to see the end of the Lib Dem council in Bath, another try out of the bus lane. We have cut backs and there is call to spend money on bicycle lanes, seagulls, and bus lanes.

    I am sure he will vote to get us out of the EU, the reason why an entitlement to a place in the House of Lords should not be a repayment for serving in the government.

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