Mark Pack’s May report – success – all across the country

Sustained, long-term growth

Last time I possessed the question, “what does a successful general election look like?”. Since then we have certainly seen what a successful set of local elections looks like, including the fun of defeating Michael Gove’s election agent and getting David Cameron a Liberal Democrat councillor.

Before getting more into that, it is important to recognise success is never universal. Missing out while others are winning can be tough. I hope though that our overall progress means those nursing disappointment can also take consolation from the fact that our continued progress means, if they decide to stand again, better times are coming in their ward too.

Most dramatic of our successes was the big picture: winning more seats than the Conservatives for the first time in nearly 30 years, pushing the party of government into third. The gains this year also extended our run of net gains in May elections to the longest run since the 1990s.

Over this Parliament as a whole, our average national equivalent vote share in local elections was the best in a Parliament since before 2010.

Our increased candidate numbers and record levels of canvassing all came off when the voters were counted.

As The Guardian put it:

In winning more councillors than the Tories for the first time since 1996, the Lib Dems enjoyed a stellar night.

There has been a big rebuilding task for the party at all levels, and that is just the sort of sustained progress we need to return to previous heights – and exceed them. We already have more Lib Dem majority councils than before the 2010 general election – and added another two this time around.

Overall, across this Parliamentary cycle, we now know we have topped the table for seat gains in May elections:

  • Lib Dem: +768
  • Labour: +545
  • Green: +480
  • Conservative: -1,783

Importantly, that growth has come right across the country too – in Scotland, in Wales and right across England too.

The breadth of our growth was also shown in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. It is always harder for us to do well in these as they stretch our resources thin across a wide area. But overall our vote share was up 3%, showing a favourable national trend on which our targeting efforts can then build.

That meant we achieved the golden double of wins in the council elections: huge wins in the areas where we hope to win at the next Westminster election, and also many smaller council groups growing too. Places such as Warrington, one of the last results to come in and which cemented our second place nationally with four gains, overtaking the Conservatives and becoming the official opposition on the council.

Or places such as Dudley, where we lost out on winning a seat by just 21 votes last year – and this year the team bounced back to gain three seats. A brilliant result for them – and an inspiration for anyone else who missed out this time around.

 

Andrew Stunell

Councillor, MP, minister, peer, Andrew’s recent death has been met with tributes all across the party. His dedication to his constituency and to the party more widely helped so many, and always made working with him a pleasure.

A lovely and kind man, Andrew achieved high political office but was always considerate and modest. “Always stay behind to put back the chairs” was his self-effacing advice that was the measure of his warmth and humility.

Many condolences to his family and friends.

 

The amazing Kathleen

Results like those are only possible thanks to the kind work of so many staff and volunteers. Stars such as Kathleen from Southampton, who has just retired from delivering leaflets – after 70 (!) years of visiting letterboxes with Focus in hand.

Thank you Kathleen!

Federal Board: 20th May

Later this month the Federal Board will be meeting, with one of the main items on our agenda being reviewing options for our autumn conference and what contingency plans make the most sense given the possible clash between conference and a general election. Thank you to everyone who has fed in their views on this, and once a decision is made, we will let members know as soon as possible.

We will also be looking at the review of our last internal elections, carried out by Nick Manners, and in particular deciding whether to put any rules changes to conference ahead of the next elections in late 2025.

We will also be looking at plans related to the general election, the budget and dealing with various internal party matters.

Details of all we decide next time.

 

Congratulations to…

Over April, the local parties who have recruited the most members locally in Scotland, Wales and England are:

  • North Edinburgh, East & Leith
  • Brecon, Radnor and Cwm Tawem, tied with Swansea and Gower
  • Mole Valley – where we kept control of the council, increasing our majority and reducing the Conservatives to zero seats

Thanks and congratulations to those teams and also to Winchester, who topped the table for the local party that has spoken with the highest proportion of its members in the last month. No coincidence that they also had strong local election results.

This sort of grassroots membership engagement is crucial to successful local parties and winning election campaigns.

 

Do you have questions on any of this report, or other Lib Dem matters? Then please drop me a line on [email protected]. Do also get in touch if you would like to invite me to do a Zoom call with your local party or party body.

 

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

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