Local elections open thread

Well, there’s nothing more we can do. The polls have closed. Knackered candidates and their teams who have been up since dawn now head to their counts. A massive thanks to everyone who has been involved in the campaigns – the literature writers, data whizzes, organisers, deliverers, canvassers, candidates, poster people, agents, people who keep the Lib Dem army marching on its stomach, people who allow their homes to be used as temporary HQ

We know that this isn’t going to be a massively brilliant night for us. This one in the electoral cycle has been historically brutal. The best we’ve done in the last 20 years is a net gain of 43 seats and we have to go back to 2002 when Charles Kennedy was leader to find that.

Let’s look in more detail.

In 1990. when we were pretty low in the polls, we lost 78 seats

Our best night ever came in 1994, a pretty good year for us after we’d won a fair few seats off the Tories, we gained a whopping 428 councillors

In 1998 we lost 7 seats

In 2002, we gained 43 seats

In 2006, bearing in mind we were at the height of our powers post Iraq and had won the Dunfermline by-election a few months previously, we had the massive net gain of 2 seats. 

In 2010, bearing in mind we did not so badly in the General Election that day (not brilliantly, but not badly), we lost 132 councillors.

2014 was an absolute horlicks. I went back and read the posts I’d written at the time and they made me want to cry as I remembered how bruised and battered we all felt then. We lost 310 fantastic councillors. 

So if we get the 30 gains Rallings and Thrasher precept, it’ll be our 3rd best result ever.

It is hell of a difficult to come back from the awfulness of 4 years ago. Our entire representation in some councils was wiped out. We can’t hope for much more than getting a foothold back in. That’s why Vince has been so keen to downplay expectations.

Of course, we hope that there will be good news from Richmond, with gains there – although our local deal with the Greens means that we are unlikely to take control. Kingston is very much in play. We’re defending Sutton, too, where we’ve not had an MP for the Sutton and Cheam part of it these last 3 years. It’s going to be a difficult defence of one of our strongholds. All-ups in Eastleigh and South Lakeland will also be quite difficult. When you are so strong, and there are boundary changes, you are always a bit vulnerable.

Look at what happens in Manchester – it’ll be interesting to see if John Leech can get some team-mates to mix it up for Labour – and Hull. Particularly keep an eye on Avenue Ward. Cllr Abi Bell has moved to the ward she lives in. It’s a risk for her because she had a majority of 500 in her old ward and Avenue is a bit bellwether.

So, sit back, pour yourself a wee nip of something and watch the results with us. We’ll be updating this post throughout the night and will do a summary in the morning.

Let’s hope for some more of these! (originally and stupidly posted on the music cuts post)

And another

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in Sheffield and seeing what impact Labour’s ridiculously authoritarian attitude to people protesting against them cutting down trees will be.

And another gain in Sunderland! We now have 6 councillors there!

And a good couple of gains in Witney.

I’m hearing rumours of a possible gain in Sheffield…

John Curtice has just said that this might be the most promising night for the Liberal Democrats since the formation of the coalition. Not the highest bar, it has to be said.

Gain in Portsmouth…

It’s looking positive in Richmond….

Wera Hobhouse calls for electoral reform to stop the domination of two big parties. She might have mentioned the huge impact the introduction of PR has had in Scotland. All those huge Labour fiefdoms have been eradicated.

Nick Harvey is now on the BBC saying that he’s cautiously optimistic that after years of being pounded in local elections there are “green shoots of recovery.”

Good news in Liverpool!

And another – by a country mile.

This makes the Makinsons a two councillor family! Liz joins her husband Andrew.

Now we have a gain in Preston:

And we’ve won a by-election in Aylesbury Vale.

Some good gains in Surrey too.

BBC now showing that we have gained a seat in Peterborough.

I am thinking of heading to bed soon because I have to go to work in the morning, which was a very stupid bit of planning on my part.

I’m keen to find out what’s going on in Hull, though. Maybe I’ll stay up a bit later.

Just going to do a quick 2am update post.

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

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Just back from a full-on polling day, and pouring myself a big glass.
    A few good straws in the wind, we are counting tomorrow. Good luck everyone.

    P.s. The thread says that Sutton hasn’t had a Lib Dem MP for 3 years. Has anyone told Tom Brake?!?

  • Noorderling 3rd May '18 - 10:23pm

    No MP in SUtton? What about Tom Brake?

  • gavin grant 3rd May '18 - 10:29pm

    No elections in Wiltshire so I’m just back from a really tough battle in Eastcott Ward in Swindon. Currently split with Labour we’ve had Corbyn, MacDonald and vast numbers of West Country Momentum there taking on a new candidate as our sitting Councillor Dave Wood (SW Regional Campaigns Manager) has moved his family home and had spent the day securing as much as we can defending 3/4 of the Wards in Cheltenham. Really proud of the Swindon and Wiltshire team that has worked in Eastcott and Wroughton wards. We could just one LD Cllr in Swindon tomorrow morning or hold the balance of power having seen off Labour and shocked the Tories. We pray for the latter but as you say Caron, we’ll know soon enough!

  • Richard O'Neill 3rd May '18 - 10:38pm

    Whatever happens, I always draw comfort from the fact that local elections generally punish whoever is in power nationally. Something which has effected all three major parties recently.

    In an era where autocratic regimes are seemingly advancing worldwide, there is a nice comforting feeling about this that tanscends any particular party loyalty.

  • OnceALibDem 3rd May '18 - 11:02pm

    There are other ways of measuring performance besides seat gains:

    Historic results were:
    Seats (%ages are seats won – not vote shares. Absolute seat numbers aren’t that useful as the number up for election has changed over the years as councils are combined and abolished)
    1990 – 702 seats (13.5%)
    1994 – 1097 seats (21.4%)
    1998 – 853 seats (19.6%)
    2002 – 1262 seats (21.4%)
    2006 – 913 seats (20.7%)
    2010 – 732 seats (17.2%)
    2014 – 429 seats (10.1%)

    2018 4410 seats up for election after boundary changes – BBC estimates are 462 were Lib Dem on those notional results

    Vote share
    1990 – 17%
    1994 – 27%
    1998 – 25%
    2002 – 27%
    2006 – 25%
    2010 – 26%
    2014 – 13%

    30 gains and 16% would as well as the Lib Dems 3rd best result ever, also be their second worst 🙂

  • Gareth Hughes 3rd May '18 - 11:27pm


    First Lib Dem seat of the night is a cracking gain. Hopefully a sign of things to come.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 3rd May '18 - 11:29pm

    @Norderling: We lost Sutton and Cheam in 2015. Tom is Carshalton and Wallington.

  • Peter Watson 3rd May '18 - 11:30pm

    “our 3rd best result ever”
    Have to agree with OnceALibDem.
    It seems odd to consider a small positive change from a disastrous result as much better than a small negative change following a great one.

  • Britiainelects twitter account has some interesting early results in Sunderland with a Lib Dem gain from Labour – we’re up only 57% :)! And also a Conservative gain from Labour there – with not surprisingly the UKIP vote looking as if it is collapsing across the country.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 3rd May '18 - 11:44pm

    @michael The UKIP vote is collapsing in Basildon and if they are tanking there, they aren’t going to be doing well anywhere, let’s face it.

  • Ian Patterson 3rd May '18 - 11:44pm

    Labour losing to Lib Dem’s AND Tories in Sunderland. End of Civilisation as they know it.

  • Noorderling 3rd May '18 - 11:51pm

    Yes, but carshalton and wellington is in Sutton borough. So my point stands.

  • Gareth Hughes 3rd May '18 - 11:56pm

    Another Sunderland gain, this time Millfield.

  • @Caron Lindsay

    UKIP having won 1 county council seat in total last year I believe – it will be interesting to see whether they will win ANY seats in this cycle.

    The interesting thing will be where the UKIP vote goes with the Tories it seems picking up a sizeable chunk of it in more working class areas outside London.

  • Ian Patterson 4th May '18 - 12:12am

    3rd seat gain in Sunderland in Sandhill, but our candidate under cloud.

  • 2 gains in west Oxfordshire just announced, Eynsham and Shipton (very few have declared in Oxon so far)

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 4th May '18 - 12:25am

    @Norderling: Fair enough. I’m a Scot so I probably have an excuse not to know my council boundaries in London:-) Have amended the post to specify the Sutton and Cheam part of it has had no MP.

  • Tean Porteus 4th May '18 - 12:29am

    Bolton gain – A gain for the Lib Dems in the first result declared here. David Wilkinson wins on Westhoughton South with 1,934 votes to take it from Labour who come a close second with 899. Toriea on 804.

  • BBCNews24 is running a strapline saying John Curtice says ‘it might be an encouraging night for the LibDems’

  • Curtice has just been interviewed and says ‘could be the most encouraging night for the LibDems since the formation of the coalition’.
    He also reckons the Tories are holding their ground overall, and might emerge with a small swing from Labour.

  • The BBC has our projected national vote share at +3% compared to 2014 which would put us on 16% (Labour 35%, Tory 38%) but 2% below last year’s local election projected share and while up from the nadir of the coalition years no better than 2011 and 2012.

    Given the collapse of the UKIP vote and we have to win elections against Tory and Labour I would say that was mildly disappointing but it may take time.

    Historic PNS shares at https://electionsetc.com/2018/05/02/calculating-the-local-elections-projected-national-share-pns-in-2018/

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 4th May '18 - 12:47am

    @michael: To be fair, last year was a much easier slate of elections for us so 16% this year is not so terrible. It’s not a huge advance, certainly, but that was not really on the cards.

  • Some interesting results in Portsmouth which look at first glance slightly all over the place

    both in the Portsmouth North parliamentary seat – Con gain from UKIP in Paulsgrove (a traditional Labour ward but won in the past by Tories) and a Lib Dem gain from UKIP in Nelson – has had councillors from all parties and our candidate was previous councillor for the ward. The new Labour MP for Portsmouth South on BBC South saying that he thinks they have done well in Portsmouth South.

  • OnceALibDem 4th May '18 - 1:04am

    That BBC ‘vote share change in key wards’ isn’t something I’ve seen before so not sure how that correlates to the national vote share equivalent which is usually published (18% on that in 2017 and 13 in 2014). 3% increase in that would be (IMO) quite a poor result – but I expect it to be more than that.

  • @Caron Lindsay

    You are unfortunately misunderstanding the PNS for which John Curtice works his magic and compensates for where elections are being held (see article). It is NOT our share of the vote in the election being held – it is what we would have got if every ward was up for election.

    I am all for spinning Lib Dem results and early on I think we will have some bright spots but among friends (?!!!!) to do well we need to be realistic about where we are. But politics shows that it takes “events” to move opinion poll ratings.

  • OnceALibDem 4th May '18 - 1:07am

    @Michael1 – I’m not sure it IS the PNS though. results in actual wards tonight don’t include anywhere like Somerset, Cornwall etc – so huge tracts of the country where the vote share increase might be higher than 3% on the ‘equivalent’ results.

    As it stands no-one knows, but we will by tomorrow morning 🙂

  • OnceALibDem 4th May '18 - 1:11am

    FWIW – the BBC now put that figure as 5% so who knows how it may still change.

    I also refer to my oh-so-excellent prediction of 7 minutes ago 🙂

  • @OnceALibDem

    We will see but I think it is an early indication of the PNS – the article I posted a link to doesn’t make it clear but I am pretty sure that it is calculated by looking not at every ward but (several hundred?) wards – the same wards (essentially) each year. Early on it is referred to in election results programmes as the share in key wards and may obviously vary by 1%-2% when all the key wards are in they then firm it up and call it the PNS.

    Curtice and the BBC would not be broadcasting if it was not an early and relatively accurate PNS – Sky (and Rallings and Thrasher) have a slightly different methodology which varies year and on year from the BBC by a percent or two.

  • For those still up! Or reading this early

    In Hampshire:
    Eastleigh – https://twitter.com/Eastleigh_news is reporting pretty solid Lib Dem wins (I believe the whole council was up due to new boundaries)

    Portsmouth – Labour gain 4 (one Labour candidate was suspended but is in the BBC results as Labour which was her ballot paper designation), Lib Dems gain 1, Conservative gain 1 (UKIP lose all their 6 seats). The detailed ward results show some mixed and close results. Interesting in 2002, when the new boundaries came in – it was 13 Lib Dem, 14 Labour, 15 Conservative. It looks to be heading back that way! With potential for the Lib Dems to pick up some seats in future years – but obviously a bit of a Labour resurgence following the collapse of UKIP.

    Winchester – the winchester council twitter feed is reporting holds – overall control may therefore be tight. https://twitter.com/WinchesterCity

  • The BBC still has us on a “key ward” share of 16% and I think we will see that as our PNS share within a percent or two.

  • Ruth Bright 4th May '18 - 2:46am

    Well, its has taken half a century but for the first time in my life am represented by a BAME Lib Dem councillor. Congrats to Cllr Jepthe Doguie and colleagues in Eastleigh Central.

  • https://twitter.com/Eastleigh_news is reporting 21 seats out of 21 won by the Lib Dems in 8 wards which I think is enough for overall control and 2 gains for Lib Dems in Winchester https://twitter.com/WinchesterCity

  • Richard Underhill 4th May '18 - 12:05pm

    I remember Neil Kinnock’s party gaining precisely 500 seats.
    Paddy Ashdown’s party gained 520 seats.
    Cons must have been down by more than 1,000 seats.
    Whatever happened to the Poll Tax?

  • Neil Sandison 5th May '18 - 10:14am

    Retained 2 wards and gained a third in Rugby We now have 9 Councillors on Rugby Borough Council .

  • OnceALibDem 5th May '18 - 11:25pm

    “This one in the electoral cycle has been historically brutal.”

    Your predecessor as editor Mark Pack disagrees with this in (for him) quite strong terms.

    “Although Caron on Lib Dem Voice wrote that, “This one in the electoral cycle has been historically brutal”, I don’t see that in the figures. Plot out either the vote shares or seat changes each year and you don’t see the cycle that came up this year as being consistently worse (or better) than the other years in the cycle. If anything, the cycle which came up this year has a record of being dead on the trend seen from the previous year and extended into the succeeding year. Which, however, still gives an optimistic conclusion as it suggests that these gains are the sort that most likely herald more next year unless major political events intervene.”

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