Sleaford & North Hykeham: Lib Dem vote almost doubles, rises to 3rd. Labour collapses.

Well, I said earlier that double figures would be a very good result for the Liberal Democrats in Sleaford and North Hykeham. Had this poll taken place during the coalition years, we’d have ended up in last place with our tails very much between our legs. Our percentage vote went up from 5.7 to 11% and we beat the official opposition to come 3rd. We got more actual votes than we did in 2015 despite a turnout that was down fro 70% to 37%. The Tory and UKIP votes almost halved in comparison and Labour only managed a third of their 2015 total.

Conservative 17570
UKIP 4426
Lib Dems 3606
Labour 3363
Lincs Ind 2892
Independent 462
Loony 200
Independent 186
Independent 74
Bus Pass Elvis 55

This was far from a like-for-like with Richmond where we had, until 2010, held the seat. Nor had the area voted Remain. I wonder what we could have achieved with a Richmond style campaign from the start.

What a sorry excuse for an official opposition the Labour Party is. What exactly is the point in voting for them? By just aping the Government on the main issue of the day, they are making the same mistake that they did in Scotland and look where that got them.

Campaign managers Ed Fordham and Ian Horner had been working steadily to increase our reach over the 4 weeks of the campaign but were very much under the radar until last week. By that time, postal votes will have been cast.

They, the team and candidate Ross Pepper deserve our thanks every bit as much as Liz Leffman, Sarah Olney and their teams for delivering a result that shows that we are back in business everywhere. Tim Farron says:

This is a strong result for the Liberal Democrats and our candidate Ross Pepper, following our victory in Richmond Park where we overcame a 23,000 Conservative majority. It shows that the Liberal Democrats are back as an electoral force, now in areas that voted Leave as well as Remain and in a seat that has not elected a Lib Dem MPs in modern times.

With Labour yet again nowhere, and after losing their deposit in Richmond, the Liberal Democrats are the real opposition to the Conservative Brexit government.

Even though this area voted Leave, the chaos of the government’s Brexit negotiations has convinced many people that Theresa May’s Hard Brexit strategy isn’t working. The UKIP vote has dropped by 5,000 as voters see that there is no need to have a UKIP MP when sadly we effectively have a UKIP PM.

This result shows people are clearly concerned by the economic uncertainty caused by the government’s Brexit negotiations and the run-down of NHS services.

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

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32 Comments

  • David Blake 9th Dec '16 - 5:15am

    Congratulations to Ross Pepper and his team. The biggest concern is the turnout. To think that less than 4 in 10 of the people thought it worth voting is terrible.

  • Thanks Ross, I don’t think you could have done a better job than you did, a credit to the party.

  • Paul Williams 9th Dec '16 - 7:24am

    Well done Ross and the team for your efforts. Almost doubling our vote share, was a tremendous performance, and demonstrates, in this heavily Conservative seat that we are doing many of the right things, and that we represent the only real opposition to the government in England

  • Alasdair McCormick 9th Dec '16 - 7:24am

    Disappointed we didn’t win but glad to see the share of vote was strong and up substantially on the last time. Gives me a belief the 48% who need a political home have found one and that can only be good for when the election comes.

  • ethicsgradient 9th Dec '16 - 7:45am

    Labour are in line for a monumental collapse at the next election. They have lost a deposit in a strong Remain area, they are fourth down 7% in a strong leave area. They have lost between 5-10% support through the all the recent council and local elections (small turn out must be noted). Put it all together, with Corbyn in charge they could be down to below 130 seats.

    I can see heir lost support splitting 3 ways between Lib Dems, Ukip and Conservatives (there will be significant flow to the tories too).

    The madness of not listening and being ideologically pure.

  • David Pearce 9th Dec '16 - 7:54am

    I think that had this seat received the same attention as Richmond, then it could have been lib dem second, even a strong second. There was virtually no publicity the by election was even happening! Plainly apathy ruled amongst voters, who most likely assumed a conservative win was assured, so no point trying.

    From a democratic perspective, labour’s collapse is bad news. From a lib perspective, it perhaps increases the lib’s chances in future by elections as challenger, but reduces the chances of actual relevance in the next general election. A total labour rout will only return a conservative government. No meaningful Brexit policy, no meaningful social policy, party engaged in civil war, result no surprise. For the libs supporting remain continues as a vote winner, whatever happens about Brexit. For labour, the only route to recovery looks like an absolute Brexit disaster disgracing the tories.

  • Jennie Rigg 9th Dec '16 - 7:59am

    Well done Ross & team.
    OfC the beeb are still talking up the Kippers, despite their vote fall.
    At least Sal is going to be on Any Questions

  • ethicsgradient 9th Dec '16 - 8:11am

    @David Pearce

    Hi,

    No, not a chance I am afraid. It id the wrong type of seat for Lib dems to get an large swing of support. Strongly euro-sceptic, always Tory, rural, nationalistic outlook rather than internationalist, with a significant patriotic working class vote. votes are either going to be Tory or UKip. Not a lib dem hunting ground.

    Goodnews for lib dems was your vote held up (with some gains) and Labour collapsed.

  • I agree with David Beckett, well done everyone connected to the campaign, but with that base increasing we need to reach out to those who voted leave for non racial reasons(UKIP will keep those) Housing, the NHS and the general level of poverty which is rising. So well done, I am really buzzing after the last few weeks but work to be done.

  • ethicsgradient 9th Dec '16 - 8:37am

    the crazy thing for labour is this is before any general election is likely to be held. Once an general election campaign starts you get posters of Corbyn being best mates with Gerry Adams and McDonnell being quoted supporting the IRA. Well imagine what happening to the patriotic working class vote which has always been labours bedrock… pooofff, gone , like smoke in the wind.

  • Looking ahead, which as Liberal Democrats we should always do, the two by-elections which will almost certainly happen in 2017 will be at Leigh and at Liverpool-Walton, both Labour-held seats with no recent significant Lib Dem vote. Doubtless the powers that be within our party are thinking about what to do about these probable by-elections, but my own feeling is that Leigh would seem historically a hopeless constituency for us, while maybe there are embers of Liberalism in Liverpool-Walton that could be blown into a flame. I do hope that our colleagues in Liverpool are thinking positively about the prospect of that by-election.

  • Denis Loretto 9th Dec '16 - 8:52am

    In an unlikely area this result keeps up the Lib Dem recovery. One important point – we must not present ourselves as “the voice of the 48%”. We speak also for the many who voted leave but understand the need to keep close to our European neighbours.

  • Trying to make anything out of Sleaford, even on a 37% turnout (2015 GE 70% turnout) is farcical…
    Sleaford was staunch Tory even in Blair’s ‘honeymoon’ 1997 election; it was staunch ‘Leave’ in the referendum;…Only half the Tory vote turned out and their candidate STILL polled more than all others combined…

    Trying to elect anyone other than a Tory in Sleaford is the equivalent of throwing snowballs into hell…Shrug and move on…

  • @Hugh P

    The Liverpool LD party are looking forwards to the likely Walton by-election. The people of Liverpool are increasingly sick of Labour in the region.

  • Ian Patterson 9th Dec '16 - 9:31am

    A necessary corrective to the Richmond Park hysteria. But good work anyhow in such a campaign, overlapping Richmond as it did.

  • Huw Dawson 9th Dec ’16 – 9:19am….The Liverpool LD party are looking forwards to the likely Walton by-election. The people of Liverpool are increasingly sick of Labour in the region……

    2015…Labour 31,222 LibDem 899

    Now a win there would be something to destroy my ‘throwing snowballs into hell’ analogy…

  • I remember campaigning in the Liverpool Walton by election in 1991. Boiling hot summer! We got a strong result: we didn’t win but a decent 2nd. I remember there was a sense that, if the campaign had received more support from on high we could have pulled off a win, but that the leadership had decided early on that it wasn’t on, so they didn’t give it ‘the full monty’. I hope we don’t make the same mistake this time…

  • A safe seat I know, but to win so easily was a very good result for the Tories. The Lib Dem vote is still nothing like 2010 and before, which was a little disappointing. UKIP should be doing much better in Lincolnshire, but their leadership problems didn’t help. Labour surprised me – I thought they would lose their deposit – but I think they had the best candidate of the main parties and that may have saved them. Overall no change, the Tories are absolutely cruising to a massive majority at the next GE and Labour are heading for disaster.

  • Richard Underhill 9th Dec '16 - 9:57am

    Some Labour MPs were critical of the party’s performance. Jess Phillips said the party’s stance on Brexit was confusing and it was hard for leader Jeremy Corbyn, given his political background, to address voters’ concerns on immigration in areas like Lincolnshire. “When people are putting a cross in a box, clarity is everything,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today. “Labour needs to have a very clear position and for everybody to be saying the same thing and at the moment that is not the case.”
    David Winnick, the veteran MP for Walsall North, said the result was “appalling”. “If we were to continue in this way then the indications are 2020 will be an electoral disaster,”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-38258976

  • >UKIP votes almost halved
    2015: 9,716
    2016: 4,426.
    That’s more than halved. Def. not what they were hoping for.

    expats, you are preaching to the converted on the unfairness of FPTP!
    However, given we were the only party to gain votes compared to last year, against a huge drop in turnout, I think it is an important result.
    Well done Ross and co.

  • Graham Jeffs 9th Dec '16 - 10:10am

    Yes, well done! We need many more active PPCs to galvanise activity throughout the country. Too many areas lack a focus – and I’m not just referring to the leaflet!

  • I have difficulty in commenting on a constituency that I barely know. I have been to Belton House. I once drove round Sleaford to get to Woodhall Spa. I have explored three villages on the south side of Lincoln. That is about it.

    The reason why the Tories did so well (on a low turnout) is because (1) the opposition is so weak, and (2) May and her crowd are being cheered on day-in-day-out by the kind of newspapers that people in Richmond are less likely to read. Labour deserved to come fourth. In fact, the Labour Party is fast running out of reasons to exist.

    I do not buy this stuff about a patriotic working-class that is off-limits to Liberal Democrats. There are plenty of them in North Norfolk, are there not?

    Also, I am wary of the demonisation of Lincolnshire by people who have never been there. In 1975, Lincolnshire voted to remain in the Common Market by a big margin. In October 1974, the Liberals got 32.9% of the vote in Gainsborough, and in 1979, 33.2% in Louth. In both cases, had the Labour vote been squeezed to the extent that it was in Sleaford, the Liberals would probably have won.

    It is very difficult to run a crash campaign in four weeks in the winter in a region with few members and activists while something much bigger is going on 150 miles to the south.

  • CassieB 9th Dec ’16 – 10:10am…expats..However, given we were the only party to gain votes compared to last year, against a huge drop in turnout, I think it is an important result….

    Cassie, gaining 106 votes, in a constituency where around 20,000 Tories didn’t even waste their time turning up, signifies what?

  • expats: it’s all about perception. As is much of life.
    Had our vote fallen, it would have been used as ammunition against us.
    It’s also heartening, compared to the other stats from the night, and all those who, since 2015, have sneered ‘you are finished’ at us.

  • @expats

    Yup, the vote in Walton was very low at the GE. The Liverpool Lib Dems concentrated on holding Richard Kemps’s council seat in Church. The same Richard Kemp then battered the Greens firmly into third and tripled our vote percentage in the Mayoral contest (and damn nearly taking Anderson to less than 50% of the vote.) in 2016, whilst also greatly diversifying our councillor pool to include people who didn’t have “Kemp” as a surname. 🙂

    It’d be very nice if there was a parliamentary constituency in Liverpool that accurately represented the middle-class suburbs in south Liverpool where we have a strong presence (Chuch, Woolton, etc). But there isn’t one – instead it’s split into G&H, Wavertree and Riverside. That’d be a constituency we’d have a real chance of winning.

    Walton is a strongly red area. But Labour is in a very challenging situation locally, with a (probably) corrupt and unpopular mayor and a really not terribly strong local political infrastructure.

    I doubt we’d win (I don’t think we’ve EVER won Everton ward in the history of Liverpool council) but I know that Kris and the team are up for the fight.

    Of course, we’d infinitely rather Carl Cashman wins the mayoralty than fight the by-election. 🙂

  • TL;DR, we don’t have much of a chance in Walton unless Labour actually does collapse. But if they do, we’re definitely posed to take advantage! And it will be an enjoyable and hard-fought contest no-matter what.

  • Andrew McCaig 9th Dec '16 - 12:17pm

    Re. Votes in Sleaford:
    Ukip were hyped quite a bit in the media, especially with Farage visiting at the weekend.. I suspect quite a few people voted Tory to keep them out.. also the independents took quite a lot of votes. I suspect with a Witney level campaign we could have come second with 20% but no more…

  • Matt (Bristol) 9th Dec '16 - 1:39pm

    “gaining 106 votes, in a constituency where around 20,000 Tories didn’t even waste their time turning up, signifies what?”

    I’m no exptert, and I’m definitely an outsider, but I’d posit that…

    1) It signifies that in a grotty winter, when it has been clear that the Tories were expecting to win hands down, when many people with less interest in politics still perceived us to be at the absolute nadir of 2010, with a central campaign message that was known to be unpalatable to the majority of people in the constituency, 106 more people than last year still turned up to vote for us.

    2) It further signifies that the team in Sleaford have built a loyal core vote that is above deposit-losing level, and that even in areas of the country that might appear actively pro-Brexit or even pro-hard-Brexit, there are people who respond positiviely and with active participation to a pro-European campaign.

    3) Therefore, we are not trapped in either May 2015 or June 2016 forever. There is future for the party and for our political agenda that goes outside a few wealthy, academic strongholds.

  • PHIL THOMAS 9th Dec '16 - 4:37pm

    This by-election result was nothing to boast about ? I thought it was a very poor result getting beaten by UKIP and only just beating Labour. People are not impressed with Tim Farron and the Policy of trying to target the 48% is untenable.

  • Bernard Aris 11th Dec '16 - 3:16pm

    I just want to draw everybody’s attention to the Bagehot column in this weekend’s Economist.
    He points out that, now that Labour is collapsing because of its own folly (first Militant, now “Monumentum”), and Nuttal’s UKIP is targeting working class voters like Farage with his posh persona never could, the old adagium of Britain being a “two party system” is definitively going out of fashion.
    He points out it wat launched by the pioneering French political scientist Duverger back in the 1950’s, with a totally different (slower!) media landscape, and a Liberal party hanging on by its finger nails (2 out of 6 MP’s the result of a deal with the Tories).

    The conclusion is the same as different posters above me have put forward:
    *) The Liberal Democrats must study how to remain relevant in a 21st century world with no assured parliamentary seats; with social media isolating its users in self-radicalizing “one opinion bubbles”, with algoritms, not human editors, deciding how much fake news you get (see “Pizzagate”), and with more and more uncertainties both local and global…
    Especially the question how online citizens can get dissident, critical comments on their opinions is a worrying one for true Liberals…

  • Bernard Aris 13th Dec '16 - 3:40am

    And Ukip did not help itself when, in a constituency where they have so much goodwill,
    they mis-spelled the name of the constituency on a banner Farage was put in front of by way of press photo opportunity; see the Grimsby newspaper (hometown of the Ukip councillor standing as candidate) about that:
    http://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/spelling-blunder-embarrassment-for-nigel-farage-ahead-of-sleaford-and-north-hykeham-by-election/story-29966667-detail/story.html .
    First rule in politics: use the proper names of people and places you want to like or favour you…

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