So what else happened on the by-election front last night?

We didn’t have much of our own to hold in Oldham, but we held it, which is not a bad thing. It compares with other by-elections in seats where we don’t have a presence. You just so need that Liberal Democrat local government record to build on.

Talking of local government, signs of a small #libdemfightback in Boleyn ward in Newham. We went from nowhere to second, albeit a fairly remote second. This is a place where they way the Labour vote, but Elaine Bagshaw has been leading some brilliant campaigning there since the General Election and mayoral by-election.

Candidate Sheree Miller did an amazing job to get second place and 9.1% of the future. The first chunk of the elephant has been devoured and there’s a motivated and energetic team ready to take on the rest.

In Guildford, our vote went up by 4.7%

In Meole in Shropshire, both Labour and Conservative votes saw 11% falls while we went from 7% to nearly 20%, just 80 votes behind the 2nd placed Labour candidate. Good work.

You just have to wonder what would have happened if we’d found candidates in South Kesteven and Malvern Hills.We might have found new campaigners. Two opportunities in #libdemfightback lost, which is a shame.

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

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42 Comments

  • 6 years ago the Lib Dems would have been in with a shout of winning the Oldham by-election,

  • Charles Rothwell 4th Dec '15 - 8:18am

    The Party really needs to get its media act together. I could access Tim’s speech on Syria easily enough on my phone, but trying to find it to view on TV proved impossible. The Lib Dem YOUTUBE site needs to become a source of instant good news about the Party and to become a primary means of spreading the word. (You would not believe the stuff on there; “With the May 2015 Battle Bus”. (Who on earth could care less?)

  • Well there never were any votes in being slightly less pro-war than the Tories!

    All political parties put the most positive spin they can on election results, but we are surely scraping the barrel with the ones in this article?

  • Dave Orbison 4th Dec '15 - 8:36am

    Charles Rothwell – perhaps the message is received and understood, it just that few really care to hear it. John Doran is absolutely correct. Given the relentless vilification of Corbyn and the negative media about the ‘state of the Party’ they were confidently setting this up for a Lab loss. There was not one punter who suggested that it would be LibDem. I saw on twitter last night Tim Farron and LibDem posters saying only the LibDems could squeeze Labour. They didn’t look like spoof pieces either way it and the miserable LibDem result, taken together, speaks volumes.

  • Thank you to Jane Brophy and the Oldham team for all they did. A by election like this is a thankless task and is always going to be difficult. Yes, six years ago we might have been in with a shout, but the loss of activists and councillors on the ground has made a huge hole in our campaigning ability over time. A presence in a constituency isn’t just media based. It is people doing the groundwork slog week in and week out. We need to turn the tide at local level before we can win in national elections.

  • Alex Macfie 4th Dec '15 - 8:50am

    Our stance on Syria is not going make a big difference in the long run: voters don’t generally get excited about foreign policy issues. I agree with Flo: it is local campaigning that will turn our fortunes around.

  • @Alex absolutely agree that it’s the local work that is key. But I disagree that our long-term national policy stances – particularly if they are distinctive and we stick to them – don’t help build support. Building local support is always easier if people already agree with you on some high profile issued. What we did pre-2010 on tuition fees undoubtedly won support among students and helped win some key seats. What we did under Kennedy on Iraq undoubtedly won us new support, particularly from Muslim voters, and as a council lot for an ethnically mixed London ward I have met many people over the years who gave out anti-Iraq stand as a key reason for supporting us. Again, this made it easier for us to win key wards and seats.

    Whatever else, we have now abandoned our claim to both the above constituencies, won zero extra support by voting against our previous positions, and neither constituency will be easy to rebuild.

  • The blunt question. Do we have any future, to most of the public, what point do we serve? We are very good talking blandly about our situation, but we are still in a terrible electoral mess, where is our salvation coming from. I am sure I do not know. The main problem is the lack of weekly publicity from PMs question time. It seems to many that we do not exist.

  • The LibDems were always seen as the decent under dog, the party you could always vote for if the big two didn’t appeal. Tuition fees changed all that, you became the party hardly anyone trusted. Many people now look at UKIP, the Greens, Scots and Welsh Nats, independants, any alternative but the LibDems. The party has tried saying sorry and explaining why they voted to increase tuition fees, but it just hasn’t worked. I don’t know what the answer is, perhaps there isn’t a way back and the party is finished as a serious contender for power. At the moment the party seems to attracted support from the louder elements of minority groups and not much else. Last night was a shocking result for the LibDems – far worse than it was for any of the other parties.

  • It is ludicrous in the 21st century that people would prefer to vote for protectionist parties such as Labour and UKIP, rather than a liberal party.

  • Charles Rothwell 4th Dec '15 - 10:58am

    I think if you look at the May 2015 General Election results compared with those of the 2010 General Election, what malc says has a lot of merit (in terms of tactical voting). The LDs were over 14 points down in 2015 as opposed to 2010 while the Kippers were up 17 points. As in many other areas, the Kippers have become the “stuff the others” party (in England) while the SNP has cleaned up on the anti-Westminster (particularly anti-Labour) vote (and a really interesting test would be a byelection in Scotland but, if not, the May elections should give a clear idea of how far a reformed Labour under Corbyn is managing to win back disillusioned followed who turned to the Tartan Army instead!) In my view, the loss of “none of the two others” status of the Party could well be a strength as it will mean we have got to develop an extremely clear and distinct “brand” for the Party (AND, this time, retain it and not allow ourselves to be manoeuvred into positions where we can be denounced as “Tory (or Labour) lapdogs”. I feel very sad at the Oldham result, Obviously, there was not the slightest chance of “pulling off a sensation”, but, with an excellent candidate, a new Party Leader and lots of enthusiasm and commitment being poured into the campaign, one would have hoped that the Party could do better than 1% (albeit with a turn-out of 40% (to be expected in a byelection)). One thing which is shown, however, (as in May) is that the pollsters, journalists, commentators, auguries and soothsayers of election results do not really have the faintest idea of what is happening in the brains and hearts of hundreds of thousands of ordinary voters! In order to be able to tune into these, there is surely no alternative but to going back to “pounding the pavements” (although now supplemented with smart localised use of social media) and actually listening to/working with such voters?

  • Sad about , the Lib Dem Vote, but really pleased UKIP got stuffed, One of the things the Right Wing press is always trying to do is promote the idea that The White Working classes are going to deliver an anti-immigrant ultra patriotic shock wave through British politics. They used to pin their hopes, and it is their hope, on the BNP and now they pin it on UKIP, Thankfully every time they end up with egg on their faces whilst munching on a diet of sour grapes and hard cheese.

  • Paul Holmes 4th Dec '15 - 11:16am

    Flo Clucas is absolutely spot on.

    We have a massive rebuilding job to do from the bottom up, as we had to do back in the 70’s and 80’s before we could start to win serious numbers of Cllrs, MP’s etc. Seven months on from May’s disaster I have yet to see any signs that the National Party is restructuring (as opposed to just downsizing due to loss of income) to deal with the position we are now in after the successively awful elections in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 hollowed out our ground level campaigning capacity.

    There will be no automatic ‘return to normal’ unless ‘normal’ is the tiny handful of MP’s and Cllrs we had for most of the 90 years after the Party imploded at the start of the 1920’s. In terms of Cllrs we were as low as 600 in 1979 and the growth to thousands thereafter provided the community presence and campaigning base that was essential to -but would not automatically lead to – significant seat gains in national elections. In the 10 General Elections from 1974 -2010 we averaged 20% of the national vote but only moved out of the tens and low twenties of MP’s from 1997 on as a result of the serious Targeting Strategy that was introduced.

    Lost deposits, 8 MP’s, under 10% of the vote and running a tiny number of Councils was ‘normal’ for the great majority of the last 90 years . Returning to our ‘abnormal’ success levels of the last 20-30 years will not happen overnight or through wishful thinking.

  • paul barker 4th Dec '15 - 11:35am

    The big result from last night was that UKIP flopped & that is very good news. Our result in Oldham was in line with National polls – no change since May. Reults from Local byelections, on the other hand suggest that we are making significant progress, we wont know which is more relevant for another 5 Months.

  • “Reults from Local byelections, on the other hand suggest that we are making significant progress, we wont know which is more relevant for another 5 Months.”

    Where do you get that from?

  • Mick Taylor 4th Dec '15 - 12:21pm

    The candidate was excellent, lots of people went to help, leaflets and letters were delivered in abundance and quite a lot of canvassing was done. And yes, it’s right to thank the Oldham Team for their hard work. I am driven to the conclusion that one or two things is true.
    1. The electorate still has not forgiven the party for the coalition and/or
    2. The message we were putting out did not inspire people to vote for us.
    I am inclined to the view that the memory of the coalition is fading, though perhaps not fast enough, so the problem is that the message is wrong. [Trying to pretend that we were the main challengers to Labour was a nonsense from the start]. I did think that the message about tax credits was a good one, but perhaps the attack message about Corbyn and Labour was not. I think the problem is that we have not get a coherent and radical message and are not putting it over in a way that catches people’s attention.
    So my conclusion is that the message and its delivery need a complete reboot. We also need to eschew negative campaigning. In that respect we need to learn from our Canadian sister party, who recovered from a severe pasting and their worst result in a generation to win from 3rd place by a relentlessly positive campaign on issues that fired people’s imagination.

  • Assume there was an Independent in Boleyn last time. Otherwise the falls and rises in vote share don’t match up.

    Once upon a time we did win seats like Oldham. UKIP and the collapse in local government base have shot that fox.

  • A Social Liberal 4th Dec '15 - 12:52pm

    I’m afraid that the great and good who post on here still have to realise that the rehabilitation of our party is not going to happen in six months. I have news for them, we aren’t even going to be entirely forgiven in six years. It is going to take fully a generation before our decimated party can consider itself back where we were. This is because those who considered the Lib Dems worthy of their vote in 2005 and 2010 will not and possibly will never forgive us for letting them down so badly.

    As you so, so shall you reap, as the saying goes – and we sowed so very much in our coalition period. This is the ill harvest we now have to reap.

  • Simon Jenkins describes the LibDems as a broken reed. there is a growing feeling i have – hope i’m wrong -but this might be it for the party in its current guise at least. The fightback is clearly dying, those in charge of the nuts and bolts of campaigning are serial losers, the only real prospect is rebuilding the local government base which might take 15-20 years at this rate. .

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Dec '15 - 1:27pm

    You cannot compare us with the Canadian Liberals, who have always been the default party of government. Positive message , yes but getting seen and heard is the thing . Myopic and deluded centre left love of the so called progressive tv media rather than press, is sentimental. The BBC is practically ignoring us. One hundred plus years of three party politics has become modern ,very many multi party politics ,with an electoral system made for a two party system. There is nothing we can do I feel till publicity is regular and yes very positive.

  • John Roffey 4th Dec '15 - 1:41pm

    Dan Falchikov 4th Dec ’15 – 12:33pm

    “Paul Holmes is right the party needs to restructure – starting with the deadwood at the top of the organisation and those responsible for the campaigning and comfort polling. They should have done the decent thing in May – the fact they are still at the top of the party drawing fat salary cheques is an insult to those who are actually trying to rebuild the party.”

    Having been away from LDV since the GE [joined the Green Party] – it does not appear to me that anything has obviously changed in the meantime. I have watched TF’s keynote speech on becoming leader again – and was reminded why I hoped he would become leader – a thoroughly decent man. However I am afraid that his pride in what was achieved within the Coalition and general ‘continuation’ theme was a mistake – the voters rejected that opinion at the GE.

    There does need to be a thorough break with the past for unless the Party is presented as ‘new & improved’ in some significant way – I cannot see how its fortunes can change. If the same people are ‘still at the top of the party drawing fat salary cheques’ – this would go a long way to explain why it looks no different.

    I have asked who these are – but there seems to be a reluctance to name names. If you are a decent man – it is difficult to be ruthless – when ruthlessness is required. It looks pretty obvious to me that this is such a time.

  • Mick Taylor 4th Dec '15 - 2:15pm

    I was not comparing us to our sister party in Canada, merely pointing out that they have shown that rebuilding from an electoral thrashing is possible if you have a positive campaign and a message people want to hear. [It helps to talk to the people for 3 years before an election as well)

  • nvelope2003 4th Dec '15 - 2:58pm

    Oldham was presented by the media as a close contest between UKIP and Labour. Voters who dislike UKIP would have voted Labour unless they had a very strong attachment to another party. The Conservatve vote was halved – is it likely they voted Labour ? More likely they voted UKIP to keep Labour out but others, including some former UKIP voters, voted Labour to keep UKIP out.

    In answer to “Hywel” the information about an improved Liberal Democrat performance in local council by elections is there for all to see in “Britian elects” and the ALDC website. See for yourself. There have been some setbacks but in general our share of the vote has increased, sometimes substantially, and there have been some gains in seats and some losses which often seemed to have been due to the way people vote when a by election for one seat is conducted in what was a multi member ward at the main election. If a Liberal Democrat is elected as the 3rd councillor where the first 2 were from another party, it is unlikely that the party would retain the seat at a by election if the pattern of voting at the original election is followed by the voters.

  • nvelope2003 4th Dec '15 - 3:21pm

    David Becket: Are there many people who would be able to take over from the present leadership and run the party competently ? Those who thought the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader would help the Liberal Democrats could not have been more wrong as I said at the time. Just as many Greens have deserted that party to support Labour so have some of the more idealistic Liberal Democrats as shown by the drop in average opinion poll ratings from 8.9% in June and July to 7 % since September.

    Tim Farron is a very good and energetic man but he does not come across as a leader with the sort of gravitas that Hilary Benn or Jeremy Corbyn seem to have and however funny he seems on TV shows that is not what the sort of people who turn out on a winter day to vote in a by election are looking for. Just look at the number of votes cast for the Monster Raving Loony party. I am sure they have lots of supporters who are too lazy to go out and vote !

  • nvelope2003 4th Dec '15 - 3:51pm

    The big increase in the number of MPs in 1997 was largely caused by the collapse in Conservative support which enabled the Liberal Democrats to win seats in places like the West of England (Cornwall, Devon, Somerset etc) where they had traditionally been the main challenger. The Conservative recovery which began in 2005 caused the Liberal Democrats to lose many of these seats but they gained more from Labour in 2005 and some in 2010 but failed to do this in 2015 while losing more of the traditional Conservative seats. Labour is still weak in the South West and the Liberal Democrats are still the main challenger there. The Conservative party is unlikely to remain popular for ever on past experience and eventually the voters will grow tired of them.If the Liberal Democrats wish to take advantage of this they must present policies that are relevant to ordinary voters, not just to a handful of special interest groups.
    If the party wishes to attract Labour voters it is not helpful to attack their leaders. The message that “Labour cannot win here” was useful at getting their supporters to vote Liberal Democrat and a few more years of Messrs Osborne and co should let them forget the downside of the coalition years whilst emphasising the benefits of not having a full Conservative Government.

  • @nvelope2003 “If the party wishes to attract Labour voters it is not helpful to attack their leaders.”

    Their own MPs are doing it pretty well at present, admittedly.

  • “It compares with other by-elections in seats where we don’t have a presence. You just so need that Liberal Democrat local government record to build on.”

    Actually until 2011, Oldham Council was under Lib Dem control Caron.

  • David Allen 4th Dec '15 - 6:10pm

    Well – Some claim this is a kind of triumph, others claim it’s a disaster. They’re both talking complete nonsense, of course. We are standing still. That in itself is a lesson. We have not managed to move opinion at all.

    Tim has written speeches describing his detailed political stance and his economic policies. They are very good speeches, but until their contents get communicated in bite-size bits to the general public, in a way that will make the news by responding to events, their impact will be precisely zilch.

    Tim has taken a clear and distinctive line which has been reasonably well publicised on just one subject so far, refugees. On its own, it seems that this does not either attract or repel voters in significant numbers.

    On Syria, whatever an individual believes, it can only be said that in campaigning terms, we missed a trick. Nobody, apart from a few Tory rebels, took the stance that fighting Daesh in Syria would be the right thing to do but only when a coherent plan had been put in place. That could have been a distinctive USP for us. We didn’t take that chance.

  • Tony Dawson 4th Dec '15 - 6:25pm

    @”Mark Bury ”

    Actually until 2011, Oldham Council was under Lib Dem control.”

    Your point being, Mark? The decline in the Oldham West wards of the Oldham Borough has been so substantial in the past decade that past glories amount for zilch. Memories are short in local government.

    The role of the braderies in delivering a substantial Labour postal vote in a low-turnout by-election in rotten weather in very late autumn cannot be discounted in any sensible analysis of this result.

  • nvelope2003 4th Dec '15 - 6:30pm

    It has to be accepted that joining the coalition with the Conservatives has caused great damage to the party even though that Coalition implemented fairly moderate policies considering the grave economic circumstances. If the party’s supporters could not accept this – compare what happened under Mrs Thatcher whose party was re elected 4 times despite implementing much harsher policies – then you have to ask whether a Liberal Democrat Government would ever be re elected unless the Sun shined every day and all the country’s problems were solved. This will never happen as all sensible people know.

    The fact seems to be that about 15% of the voters voted Liberal Democrat as a sort of protest against “The Government” and when our party joined the “Government” they went to another party which they thought was unlikely to achieve power – either UKIP or the Greens.

  • Nvelop 2003,
    I’ve never believed the protest vote argument. People vote Green because a represent hope and left leaning policies to those people. Although it sticks in my throat to say it The people who vote UKIP are also voting for hope and the things they believe in. The problem the Lib Dems have is that we were a small party with a left leaning electorate entering government with a right wing party who proceeded to clobber a lot of the kinds of people who were voting Lib Dem. It’s very similar to what happened in Australia where the “progressive” party in a similar coalition were reduced to 1%.
    The problem at the moment is getting the Lib Dems heard, but the reality is for all the bluster coming from both Labour and the Conservatives the two party system is not functioning that well because both are attracting nothing like the levels of support they achieved in 50s, or 60s. My view is that some drift back will be possible if we stop buying into the presses endless right wing narrative.

  • Richard Underhill 4th Dec '15 - 8:13pm

    nvelope2003 4th Dec ’15 – 6:30pm “The fact seems to be …” These are not facts, they are perceptions, but no less valuable for that because we deal in perceptions. Tactical voting is all about perceptions. Nuclear deterrence is all about perceptions. It does not even matter if you do not believe in it, because these are “unknown unknowns” to be approached in substantial ignorance of the facts and therefore with humility.
    Even MPs form opinions based on whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,. They try to establish the facts for evidence-based policy, but they should consider the world of perceptions, in this dangerous part of the world. Assad pere had come to power in Syria by force, but the Baath parties in Syria and Iraq distrusted each other. Iraq had warred with Iran, at length and bloodily. Saddam had used chemical weapons against Kurds in northern Iraq and had drained the marshlands in the south to the detriment of the Marsh Arabs. Pakistan has nuclear weapons. It may have suited Saddam to have his neighbours believe that he might have weapons of mass destruction. George Bush senior calledSaddam’ss bluff after the invasion of Kuwait and also decided not to occupy Iraq.
    This is a classic for sales training. Imagine that you are one of the richest countries in the world. Imagine that your entire country is on fire. Imagine that you are living in a hotel in Paris. Imagine that there is one man in the whole world who can put the fires out. He wants you to sign a blank cheque. Will you pay his price? They did. He delivered.
    It was George W Bush who got it wrong, trying to live up to his father, by resuming the war in Iraq and by dragging allies with him, including the UK. Tony Blair has taken the blame, Ian Duncan-Smith is in government..
    The possibilities for substantial expenditure now are real and have not been provided for, yet.

  • “There have been some setbacks but in general our share of the vote has increased, sometimes substantially, and there have been some gains in seats and some losses which often seemed to have been due to the way people vote when a by election for one seat is conducted in what was a multi member ward at the main election. If a Liberal Democrat is elected as the 3rd councillor where the first 2 were from another party, it is unlikely that the party would retain the seat at a by election if the pattern of voting at the original election is followed by the voters”

    We have made either 1 or 0 net gains (depending on how you calculate things) since May. That is fewer than in the second halves of at least 3 of the coalition years – 2010, 2011 (same cycle) and 2014 (when we made 6 net gains). Our vote share is up but we are averaging around 19% in by-elections compared to 22% in byelections in the second half of 2011. I don’t have a a figure for the second half of 2014 but we averaged 18% across the year.

    That 22% in by-elections in 2011 was followed by an election in which we got an estimated national vote share of 16%, ICM polls at that time has us on between 13 and 15%. The 18% thru 2014 was followed by an 8% vote share with ICM polls putting us on 8-11% over that time. The last 5 ICMs have been between 6 and 8% – all lower than any ICM poll in the 2010-15 period.

    If ALDC are saying that by-election results are encouraging then they need to actually look at the figures – but to be frank they have tended more towards propaganda than analysis since 2010.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Dec '15 - 11:55am

    When George Bush senior was leading a coalition to get Saddam out of Kuwait, Syria, under Assad pere, was a member of the coalition.
    The Arab forces went into Kuwait,
    The US, British and Fench forces went into Iraq.
    Turkey kept out of the fight.
    Paddy Ashdown’s writings state that he had been part of a UK force that landed in Kuwait to deter Saddam’s predecessor.
    He stated that a side-effect of the expected invasion was that he learned Scottish dancing under British military discipline, one of several unexpected consequnces.

  • Julian Heather 5th Dec '15 - 4:12pm

    I find it extraordinary that anyone should have thought that we could and should have bucked our national opinion rating, when extrapolated to the Oldham situation. Why should we have significantly exceeded the 3.7% share of the vote that we got in the General Election, just seven months ago ? What is amazing is that we didn’t get squeezed even further in Oldham from that 3.7% vote share – unlike both the Tories and the Greens, whose vote was more than halved (the Greens going down from 2% to 1%)

  • nvelope2003 5th Dec '15 - 9:48pm

    Glenn: Many who vote for parties to the left of the Conservatives do so as a protest against a system that they think has treated them unfairly, even if that is not always true. The person who resents the manager because he did not get the job himself for example or those who feel their wages or state benefits are inadequate. There are people who vote Labour because they genuinely believe that the majority would be better off under a Socialist system but I suspect they are now a minority. Of course there are those who voted Green because they believe in that party’s policies on climate change and nationalisation of industries. and those who vote UKIP because they want Britain to leave the EU and stop immigration but apart from party activists I get the impression that many of them are just fed up with the system and feel that voting for a party which they know the establishment detests is the best way to make a protest. This role was formerly taken by the Liberal Democrats but they lost it when they entered “The Government”.
    In 1970 8.8% of those who voted in Oldham West voted Liberal. In 1974 this had risen to 20.2% . Is it suggested that 11.4 % of the voters had converted to Liberalism in the intervening years. ? I think it is more likely that they wished to protest at the incompetence of Edward Heath’s Government in allowing a miners’ strike to disrupt the electricity supplies. Although both of the larger parties have lost market share most people still think you have to vote Labour or Conservative and it is going to be very difficult to persuade them to vote Liberal Democrat unless they have a background of voting for that party. This will not change unless events make it seem that the Labour Party is no longer fir for purpose and another party better represents their needs, as happened when the Labour Party replaced the Liberals as the alternative oarty of Government.

    Whatever the press and paid for opinion polls say elections do not indicate that Jeremy Corbyn is stopping many from voting Labour, in fact he seems to have caught the mood of discontent that can be observed and I am not sure that he will be unable to win a General election if the Conservatives mess up. Where is a Jo Grimond when you need one ?

  • nvelope2003 6th Dec '15 - 2:38pm

    The Green vote has fallen since Mr Corbyn began to lead the Labour, suggesting that the left wing protest vote at least has now shifted to the allegedly unelectable Labour Party. Quite a few Liberal Democrats have also switched to Labour especially after the vote on Syria but maybe they planned to go anyway and were just looking for an excuse.

    Some seem to have changed allegiance several times recently but I will soldier on with our party and hope for better times. The grass always seems greener on the other side but it is not always so. How can you be a Liberal and join a Socialist Party ?

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