Local Elections 2018: Enjoy the success and build on it

Here are some pictures of happy, successful Liberal Democrats from all over the country. Enjoy – and then then get out there and build on the good results.

Whether you think of the 2018 as our best local elections showing in 15 years or the second biggest rise in councillor numbers for this set of elections in our history, there are lots of exuberantly joyful moments to savour:

We made 6 gains in Haringey!

Happy hugs in Liverpool

And a happy dance in South Cambridgeshire

They are more restrained in Kingston. In public at least.

Good results in St Albans too:

Council gains and a healthy retention of the Mayoralty in Watford:

And Manchester Labour now has an opposition group facing them with others poised to join them next year:

We’re on our way back up. Enjoy the moment and have a rest over the bank holiday.

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

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Eddie Sammon 5th May '18 - 10:33am

    Well done to all Liberal Democrats for their successes. It feels like it’s been a while since we had a good result in a national election (albeit local ones, held nationally and not everywhere).

  • Max Wilkinson 5th May '18 - 10:41am

    Well done everyone. It’s lovely to see liberals doing well across the country. In Cheltenham we made three gains and we now have 32 out of 40 councillors. We saw off a challenge from Tories who were bussed in from across the region and a renewed Labour Party.

    It’s been a brilliant campaign.

  • This is Spring after a Winter and a few swallows have been spotted. But one swallow does not make a summer and in politics unfortunately Summer does not necessarily follow Spring.

    All parties indulge in hyperbole on election nights and arguably Labour and the Tories did it more than us over these results. The Tories retaining Westminster and Wandsworth – something they did even in the poll tax years – does not equal success for them. Equally the limits of Corbynism have been demonstrated – perhaps tellingly in the Midlands.

    But this is NOT the best set of results for us in 15 years. Out projected national vote share – and yes this takes into account the different sets of elections fought each year – is 16% – 2% below last year. We had 310 losses in 2014 so 75 gains does not restore us to our 2014 position.

    What is needed in politics as always is massive optimism and massive pessimism! A difficult combination to pull off!

    And local parties should now try and “bank” as much of our successes on Thursday as they can for the future. Difficult when money and energy are low just after an election. But the thank you focus is more important than ever and indeed something of a deluge of leaflets in key wards in the next few months – pointing out our successes, what we are doing locally and how the Conservatives or Labour are messing things up.

    Perhaps particularly tapping into remainers as a source of money and activity as it is clear that to gain a soft Brexit at worst and remaining at best the Lib Dems are now a party on the march.

  • Richard Underhill 5th May '18 - 5:36pm

    “Kingston LD Gain – 39 out of 48 councillors” Well done. First Past the Post works for the largest party.

  • Presentation and perceptions are the thing. There are some truly horrible results as well but the outcome from the media and the immediate impression to the public is good. So well done. It is a start but we need an enormous amount more if we are to have a national impact. Parliamentary Bye Elections are required. One probably coming up at Lewisham East, Greens polled well in the Borough on Thursday, better than we did. It does however represent an opportunity for advancement, full attack, target 2nd place. Maybe another at Barnsley, that appears to offer less.

  • I got an email from the electoral reform society yesterday:

    “Who won and who lost the 2018 local elections? We’ll leave it to the pundits to argue which parties are up and which are down. But the clear losers in the local elections are the voters.
    Up and down England, voters are being denied the opportunity to have councils that reflect how they voted.
    In Plymouth, the Conservatives got the most votes, but Labour won the council. In Westminster, the Conservatives narrow lead was translated into a landslide and in Richmond the Liberal Democrats won over 70% of the seats on fewer than half the votes.

    Wales have to use Westminster’s broken voting system for their local elections. Voters want councils with real opposition to ensure the best value for money, yet the voting system produces councils dominated by single parties.
    Northern Ireland has used a fair and proportional system for local elections for decades – and in 2007 Scotland joined them. Hopefully, Wales will soon be giving councils the right to choose. Now it’s time England caught up.”

    I think we can put-up with Richmond providing a little counter-balance in West London when you condider neighbouring Hounslow Borough where Labour took 85% of the seats with 54% of the vote.

    The reform society message is nevertheless a valid one https://action.electoral-reform.org.uk/page/2401/petition/1

  • Peter Watson 5th May '18 - 11:21pm

    “our best local elections showing in 15 years”
    Concentrating on the change seems an odd way of measuring success.
    It’s a bit like a losing football manager claiming victory because the team won the second half one-nil after losing the first half three-nil!
    (From Wikipedia) In 2010 the party lost 4 councils and 132 councillors. Leaving it with 14 councils and 1730 councillors. But surely that’s a better election showing than this week’s which really just indicates progress from 2014’s low point? Even the projected national share of the vote, at 16%, is down from 18% last year’s local elections.
    There is an awful lot of good news for Lib Dems this week, plenty of good publicity upon which to capitalise, and a real chance that the party is finally recovering, but this might be jeopardised if the party believes its own hype and makes poor decisions as a result.

  • OnceALibDem 6th May '18 - 9:40am

    What Peter said. Good results certainly. But the party would be very ill-advised to regard it’s own spin as sensible analysis. Of course history suggests it will do just that.

    Some points to temper things
    1) Vote share fell and is at the level of 2011 and 2012 so any recovery has to be considered in that context. Less people are voting Lib Dem than a year ago.
    2) What undoubtedly happened is that some local parties campaigned more enthusiastically and/or were better received when they did that.
    3) The Lib Dems are in danger of becoming a regional party. The party had a net loss across councils in the North. That was the same in 2017. Can’t find results from 2016 but there is a serious possibility that after three rounds of local elections the party has few councillors in the north than it did at the end of the coalition.
    4) 75 gains is a great return. But it is heavily skewed by ‘outlier’ massive gains in Richmond and Kingston which produced 46 of those.
    5) Those two councils apart London was especially poor. 23 of 32 Councils have no Lib Dem representation – which is more than before election day. Three (Barnet, Hackney and Harrow – four if you include Tower Hamlets though that was a defection) lost their Lib Dem representation
    4) London was really extremely poor. Outside of Richmond and Kingston there was a net loss of Lib Dem councillors. Three boroughs, Lambeth, Islington and Brent which all had big remain votes and previously had either Lib Dem MPs or Councils led by the Lib Dems (and in the case of Lambeth a constituency we were apparently on course to win at one point in 2017!) didn’t return a single Lib Dem between them. Again it looks more like a going backwards not forwards.
    5) As the above shows there isn’t any evidence of the party making big inroads into remain voters.
    6) Worth heeding the words of John Curtice, “However, this represents no more than a modest improvement on the poor 2014 result that the party was trying to defend.
    Despite being the only significant party in England that opposes Brexit, the Liberal Democrats did not perform noticeably better in Remain voting areas. ”

    It’s a lot better to analyse your weaknesses from a set of strongish results. Maybe for the first time in over a decade this might happen.

  • Richard Underhill 6th May '18 - 12:09pm

    Andrew Marr asked Arlene Foster (DUP) what would happen in Northern Ireland if the Irish Republic votes for change in the upcoming referendum. She said “That is why we need the Assembly”. The DUP are in favour of devolution. The election was in January 2017 but the devolved Assembly has not met and therefore cannot deal with devolved issues. The DUP (founded by the late Ian Paisley) are in a good position to do something about it.

  • Fair play to the spinners who have won us some valuable publicity on the back of the 70 gains made in SW London and South Cambs.

    For the rest of the country, the net result is +5, effectively standstill at rock bottom, and with an estimated national vote share that actually fell from last year. And we enjoyed not insignificant support from EU citizens who voted in local elections for the last time, in many cases not having bothered before.

    The country faces huge challenges and desperately needs significant change, yet all people hear from us and know about us is moaning about the 2016 referendum result.

  • Julian Heather 6th May '18 - 2:23pm

    Theakes writes, above that “Parliamentary Bye Elections are required. One probably coming up at Lewisham East, Greens polled well in the Borough on Thursday, better than we did. It does however represent an opportunity for advancement, full attack, target 2nd place. Maybe another at Barnsley, that appears to offer less”

    In terms of Barnsley, the local party is cock-a-hoop after winning their first Lib Dem Councillor on Barnsley Council for 8 years – Hannah Kitching, who won Penistone West from Labour, and who came from nowhere to win. The local Lib Dems hadn’t contested a by-election in the Ward in 2014, and didn’t put up a candidate in the Ward in either the 2015 or 2016 council elections.

    Mind you, we didn’t put up ANY Lib Dem candidates in Barnsley in the council elections of 2015 and 2016.

    So quite a change then, last Thursday, when most of the Barnsley seats were contested, with not only Hannah’s sensational win in Penistone West, but also one or two promising results in other wards (hat tip: Steve Hunt):

  • @OnceALibDem

    A good analysis. I was cautioning as the results came in that our vote share was low and it was – see https://electionsetc.com/2018/05/02/calculating-the-local-elections-projected-national-share-pns-in-2018/ for past shares.

    (I think though it is to be expected at this stage the “one party” states in London, the North and some rural areas will be hard nuts to crack but actually there were encouraging signs of progress)

    BUT and it is a big BUT

    We have seen in the past few years people just not consider us at all – we were just not winning – remain, leave, local issues voter, whatever just not on their radar to even consider.

    I suspect that making good gains will see us as back on the list of options for some people to at least consider.

    Since 2015 to make good progress we need two conditions BOTH to be met – a REMAIN area AND a strong local presence – South West London, Bath, Winchester etc. I suspect we will begin to see that only ONE condition needs to be met – picking up remain voters regardless of whether we can win locally and “local” and other issue voters coming to us as being more viable nationally

    Remain will become a IMHO a very much more salient issue and we could be a much bigger repository for remain voters as we are seen as a more viable national party again. And Labour is seen for what it is – a non-remain party.

    Remember that vast swathes of people hear nothing about us – not a leaflet through their letterbox, in the newspapers they read, no Lib Dem councillors or councils or MPs in their area and no Lib Dem representatives on TV or radio – this will begin to change after Thursday.

  • OnceALibDem 6th May '18 - 10:44pm

    Well you were righter than I on national vote share!

    “Remain will become a IMHO a very much more salient issue and we could be a much bigger repository for remain voters as we are seen as a more viable national party again. And Labour is seen for what it is – a non-remain party.”

    I’m not sure this isn’t seeing things as you want to see them. Certainly it hasn’t happened up to now and I’m not sure what will change to make that so.

    “Remember that vast swathes of people hear nothing about us – not a leaflet through their letterbox, in the newspapers they read, no Lib Dem councillors or councils or MPs in their area and no Lib Dem representatives on TV or radio – this will begin to change after Thursday.”

    Not on that much of a scale though. Outside of Richmond and Kingston not that many more areas have a LIb Dem cllr than before Thursday (and a chunk of gains outside London will be in a ward which already has a Lib Dem cllr). What it may do is make the media give the Lib Dems more credibility.

  • Denis Loretto 6th May '18 - 11:01pm

    Michael 1 captures here the essence of matter – the Liberal Democrats have clearly made a solid start towards recovery and are seen to have done so. No-one thinks that suddenly we have regained our pre-coalition position but the boost to internal morale and external credibility from these elections should not be underestimated. Also bear in mind that the complete demise of UKIP makes the Lib Dems clearly the 3rd party in England. The dearth of media invitations to discussion panels etc should begin to ease.

  • While it was truly wonderful to see so many Lib Dem wins, gains and positive stories from these local elections, I think a thought should be spared for places (like Reading) where we went backwards despite our hard work, and what the Party can do to ensure they aren’t left behind.

  • Neil Sandison 8th May '18 - 8:43am

    What we need to do is show this just was not a flash in the pan .Many councils still elect by thirds and boroughs ,districts and town councils will be up again next year .The national party should be contacting local parties to find out now who will need support to retain wards and where the target wards are where we had near misses .helping with costs for leaflets or telephone canvassing would go a long way to building on this years success.

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