Mark Pack on the Super Thursday elections

Lib Dem president Mark Pack has been writing on his blog about the outcome of the 6 May elections.

“We’ve had a huge set of elections in difficult circumstances. It was a massive combined effort of volunteers and staff, candidates and agents, helpers and donors, to get several hundred Liberal Democrats elected. Thank you to everyone who played their part in an impressive team effort…

“The May elections showed it was a good time to be an incumbent government in all three nations, especially thanks to the enhanced profile each government has had from its regular coronavirus press conferences. Add to that the big restrictions on campaigning for most of the year running up to polling day, and it was a tough year for us to be fighting elections.

“To come out of that with a small net gain in the English council results and the London Assembly, keeping a Senedd seat in Wales but also sadly losing a list seat in Scotland was much better than it could have been…

“We’re starting to see the fruits of the large investment we’ve made in a network of campaign staff to support local campaigns. But it’s also true that generally the larger the electorate, the tougher we found it. So we need to learn lessons about how to scale up our campaigning over larger areas.

“We also need to permanently break out of the single digit poll ratings that we’ve been stuck in for over a decade.

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  • Super elections ? Nothing to say about the Airdie & Shotts Westminster by-election (former seat of John Reid) yesterday, Mark ? It’s possibly gone unnoticed in the Home Counties, but there was a Westminster by-election in Scotland yesterday (the first since 2011).

    Guinness Book of Records here we come – lowest ever Liberal/Lib Dem vote in any Westminster election since the introduction of the universal franchise over 100 years ago. The Scottish Lib Dems surpassed themselves…. dropped from 1,419 votes (3.6%) in the 2019 General Election to 220 votes (1%).

    It would have been cheaper to have given every identified Lib Dem voter two £ 1 coins for their shopping trolley or, better still, made a £ 500 donation to the Airdrie Foodbank. Every single Lib Dem vote cost over £ 2 of the deposit.

    Where was ‘on fire’ Ed Davey ? Does it reflect Willie Rennie’s support for a UBI ???? Is Alex Cole-Hamilton still “optimistic about the future of the party ?”. Who was responsible for deciding to run such a campaign ?

    There is a crisis. Sweeping it under the carpet won’t do if the Scottish Lib Dems are to survive as a serious political party.

  • Having done a bit more research, I stand corrected percentagewise. The party got the following :

    0.7 Glasgow East 2015

    0.8 Glasgow North East 2015

    0.8 Rhondda 2017

    0.9 Dudley North 2017

    0.9 Blaenau Gwent 2017

  • Slight correction – again….. Airdrie & Shots is actually the lowest ever numerically at 220.

    Rhondda (2017) next with 277, Blaenau Gwent (2017) with 295, Glasgow North East (2015) 300, Glasgow East (2015) 318 and a stonking 368 in Dudley North (2017).

  • Brad Barrows 14th May '21 - 5:41pm

    @David Raw
    Thanks for your insights. In terms of the Scottish elections last week, noteworthy that the Scottish Liberal Democrats had 50 lost deposits out of 73 contests. The party also scored its lowest share of the national vote at a Scottish parliamentary election ever – both in constituency vote and regional list vote – and the lowest number of MSPs ever. Having now lost its status as a parliamentary party, with only 4 MSPs, and having only tiny support across the majority of the country, should the Scottish Liberal Democrats now be regarded as a minor party?

  • ! truly am happy for everyone who was elected on Thursday but we are in danger of becoming only a regional party of the south-east[and even here the Green party are coming up the rails]. No mention of Brecon and Radnor. No mention of Cornwall. And where was SirEd during the campaign-nowhere to be seen around here. Its only thanks to people like Layla and Daisy that gives us hope.

  • Peter Watson 15th May '21 - 5:29pm

    @tim rogers “we are in danger of becoming only a regional party of the south-east[and even here the Green party are coming up the rails]”
    There’s an interesting New Statesman article ( which suggests that, compared to 2016/7, Lib Dems were holding their own in areas with few students and falling back in areas with lots of students, while the Greens were making progress in all areas but (perhaps surprisingly) more so in those with few students.

  • Alex Macfie 16th May '21 - 8:36am

    @James Young: Well we are certainly taking Chesham & Amersham seriously. Yes, Hartlepool and Airdie & Shotts were dreadful results for us but we were never expecting to win either, and frankly our energies were best expended elsewhere. We have to pick our battles, and always have had to. There’s never been a time when we fought *every* by-election to win. back in the days when Liberals didn’t fight every seat, we just didn’t put up candidates in contests where we weren’t expecting to do well. I’m certainly not suggesting we go back to that practice, as it would look like we’d decided not to fight as a national party anymore and pull our results down in areas where we do do well. But it should put things into perspective. Of course we’d probably have done somewhat better in both Parliamentary by-elections had they not been during lockdown restrictions and alongside two rounds of local and regional elections.

  • Peter Watson 16th May '21 - 10:30am

    @Alex Macfie “Hartlepool and Airdie & Shotts were dreadful results for us but we were never expecting to win either”
    But was there at least an expectation of retaining a deposit or demonstrating improvement after ten years of poor performance in those places?

  • Katharine Pindar 16th May '21 - 8:20pm

    I wonder whether the Greens, with their similar kind of polling results to us and rising numbers of Council seats, are to be considered rivals to us or allies in the fight against the Tories? I am guessing that their profile is easier for voters to warm to than the more amorphous branding we (and Labour) currently achieve nationally, but in England at least I would have thought the great contribution our Councils and councillor groups make to their communities would have counted more in the local elections. Are there lessons which successful Lib Dem councillors in Sheffield and Sunderland, for example, could share with those of us in areas where we are not advancing, or is it still simply a question of working harder and consistently all year round to serve and convince local people of our special value?

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