So how is our vote share shaping up?

Earlier in the week, on a whim, I collated figures for every vote cast so far this year,* by party, expecting either the Tories or Labour to lead by a decent margin.  The actual result surprised me – prior to this week’s by-elections, the Lib Dems were leading Labour by over 800 votes despite standing in barely over half the contests.  Even after those by-elections, which were decidedly mixed for the Lib Dems (1 hold, 1 gain, 2 losses, 1 no-show), we’re still leading the pack, 500 or so votes ahead of Labour.

I hadn’t planned to share this graph again for a while – it’s nice, but doesn’t really compare to the cumulative by-election changes graphs myself Brian and I have been preparing since the summer.  But, next week we have six by-elections – one on Tuesday (!) in Basingstoke and five on Thursday.  Two of those are Parliamentary, in Stoke-on-Trent and Copeland.  You may have heard of them.  Both are in “Labour heartlands” where we “can’t win”.

Here’s the thing, though: we are.  We’ve stood in five fewer elections than Labour this year, and we’re still beating them.  Labour’s largest win so far is smaller than our second-largest, their second-largest is only 5 votes more than our third-largest – and our third-largest win was Sunderland/Sandhill, which made jaws drop up and down the country.

Since the May elections, the Lib Dems have taken 7 seats off Labour, in every country in which they stand.  Those seats were in places like Sheffield, and North-East Derbyshire, and Sunderland, and Rotherham.  None of those victories were small; they were emphatic, none more so than our 2,000 votes in Rotherham, in the very ward of Orgreave Pit.

So when people say we can’t win, don’t believe them.  Don’t accept it.  Don’t internalise it and think they’re probably right.  Parliamentary seats aren’t local ones, it’s true.  Winning either is a big ask, but don’t think for one second that it’s impossible.

After a decidedly mixed run of by-elections I ran the numbers again, and guess what?  We’re STILL beating the blighters!  So, if anyone says we can’t win, consider showing them this.  We can.  We are.


* To be clear, reliable figures only exist for Parliamentary and principal local authority by-elections (and there are yet to be any of the former)

* John Grout is a Lib Dem activist and lives in Reading.

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  • Sorry to be a misery. Yes we are moving well, understated by the media, but that terrible Failsworth result last week shows the extent of how far we have yet to go. Stoke Central will either be a Failsworth or something much better. If its the former ouch, the latter oh joy.

  • Should have added, the Conservative price at Stoke Central has come right down now from 25-1 to 10-1, my view is that if the poll is very low and they get their vote out they could do very well.( They may have missed a beat by not going for it strongly from the beginning). If the poll is reasonable say 35 – 40% no, if in the 20’s well. We are the unknown factor, reckon we will either do badly or quite well, no in between, certainly the 8 page magazine we put out on Saturday was impressive. Congrats to all concerned. Hope it works.

  • @ theakes ” If the poll is reasonable say 35 – 40%”…….

    If by this you mean the percentage of the electorate turning out to vote…………. then that would be a damning commentary on how little all political parties are communicating these days in this so called democracy. It should be a cause for much heart searching.

    As far as the Lib Dems are concerned, I get it that we oppose Brexit – but apart from that……. where, oh where, are the radical policies that address the real needs of this dysfunctional unequal society where the rich get richer and public services are allowed to crumble ?

  • Sue Sutherland 20th Feb '17 - 12:34pm

    David Raw, I agree with you. We cannot be against Brexit without policies that address the real concerns of the people who voted Leave because they have been persuaded that the EU is the cause of all their woes. If we try to avoid this we are indeed anti democratic and sore losers and will be widely perceived as such. I have been encouraged that Tim is emphasising the need for investment in housing, social care and the NHS but reading the report from the FPC on another post makes me nervous that the financial, tax and benefits and overall economic policies to provide this aren’t being urgently dealt with. I’m hoping somebody, somewhere will tell me I’m wrong.

  • @theakes – The Failsworth resut was the result of standing a paperless candidate. However, at least a candidate was stood, and the local party has 16 potential members to find (unlike the Corby, Fylde and Dudley results). Compare Oldham/Failsworth with Rotherham/Brinsworth & Catcliffe (Lib Dems got 66%, up 50) or Sunderand/Sandhill (LD 45%, up 41). I’d caution against reading too much into any one result – which is why the Rotherham/B&C and Sunderland/S’hill results are so encouraging in concert. I agree re: Stoke Central.

    @David Raw and Sue Sutherland – As a rule, by-elections can expect 1/2 to 2/3 the general election turnout. Stoke Central turnout was 49.9% in 2015, so a by-election turnout starting with a 3 should be expected; if it starts with a 4, then yes, that will be very impressive, considering.

    It’s worth saying that in none of our local by-election gains, not even Wokingham/Emmbrook (in a strongly Remain constituency) was Brexit mentioned or even a small part of the winning Lib Dem campaign. Each of them was fought on local issues or on national issues with local resonance, such as the NHS. Norman Lamb’s latest NHS push is therefore welcome.

  • Mrs May is in Stoke today, I think the Tories are beginning to fancy their chances. Now 8/1 down from 33/1 two days ago.

  • @ John Grout “The Failsworth ‘result’ was the result of standing a paperless candidate. However, at least a candidate was stood, and the local party has 16 potential members to find (unlike the Corby, Fylde and Dudley results).”

    A candidate was NOT ‘stood’. It seems more effort was expended on collecting ten signatures for the nomination paper than in getting sixteen voters. It was a pointless exercise showing no respect to the electorate and no respect to the 16 souls who evidently bothered more than the ‘stood candidate’ did.

    It demonstrates amateur naivety, a lack of pride and a lack of ambition. Do you think the ‘Failsworth 16’ were impressed ? I don’t. Can you imagine the shaking of heads when that result was read in the local papers. Amateurish – and the regional parties should stop this sort of nonsense.

    Can you imagine the howl of outrage if Manchester City had field their under 18 team against Huddersfield Town in the Cup last Saturday ?

  • Richard Warren 20th Feb '17 - 4:34pm

    Very interesting! And encouraging! Thanks for the number-crunching John Grout. Will be fascinating to see what happens at Stoke and Copeland.

    I agree with others that we need to widen our appeal beyond “remain”. We ought to bang the drum for more co-operatives – people will have a much greater sense of security if they share in the ownership of the company they work for or landlord they rent from. Pushing for more mutualisation would help differentiate ourselves from Labour, Tories and UKIP.

    “No to Privatisation, no to Nationalisation, yes to Mutualisation” ought to be our slogan.

  • Tony Dawson 20th Feb '17 - 4:53pm

    This somewhat geeky posting is poor politics and worse statistics.

    When you have a performance range (and participation range) that is so blatantly not anywhere near a normal distribution, these figures are a meaningless aggregate of totally different scenarios around the country.

    And yes, I did say the same when we Lib Dems were doing poorly on the same aggregates. The massive polarisation of our vote these days simply shows that we increasingly can gain forgiveness for our perceived past sins in areas where we are seen to be working on an agenda with which the electorate concerns resonates. And where we don’t, we won’t.

  • Betting odds are not based on probability they are based on how much money people are betting; that is the nature of a book. All the change in the Tory odds is caused by people backing them. The people betting may know something but then again they may not. When it comes to betting only the bookies always win.

  • Andy Dunstan 20th Feb '17 - 8:23pm

    Yes, but here’s a head-scratcher:

    Whilst we’ve been carrying the field in by-election after by-election, our national poll ratings have been essentially static. Why is this? I can think of four possible reasons:
    1. The polls are wrong.
    2. Whenever we get to campaign, voters listen and turn out for us – without a national election our voice just isn’t cutting through.
    3. Polls ask about general elections, but people vote differently when the UK government isn’t at stake.
    4. Lib Dem supporters are a dedicated bunch and just more likely than others to bother to vote in a by-election.

    I would love to believe that 1 and 2 are both correct and that the next general election will be a triumph.

    But is there any evidence?

  • @David Raw – I would still rather there was a Lib Dem on the ballot than not. Not standing at all speaks volumes.

    @Tony Dawson – Thank you for your encouragement!

    @Frankie – Quite right.

    @Andy Dunstan – I suspect all of those things are correct, 1) probably the least so of all of them, 2) the most so.

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