Solid gains in vote share for Liberal Democrats in Council by-elections

Last night’s by-elections saw solid gains in the Liberal Democrat vote share in 3 seats across England.

The Lib Dem vote went up a whopping 17.8% in Welwyn Hatfield:

In Bath and North East Somerset, where the Conservatives took a seat off the Greens, we were up almost 5%:

And in Misterton, Harborough, the benefits of actually standing a candidate turned out to be a very respectable 15% of the vote.

This shows that in the west country, Hertfordshire and the East Midlands, there are signs of recovery for the party.

That’s why it is really important that we throw the kitchen sink at the local elections next year. Every council seat in Scotland and Wales, as well as many across England, are up for grabs. We have a really good opportunity to build up our local government base again. Councillors can make such a tangible difference to people’s lives, too, because they are in charge of the services that everyone uses most often.

We know that people like what we have to say at the moment To think that we are winning in places like Staveley in Chesterfield again as we did the other week is incredible. The team there fought a fantastic campaign rooted in local issues, just as they did 20 years ago when we won the first time.

More details will follow later in ALDC’s weekly report.

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

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This entry was posted in News and Op-eds.


  • Ian Patterson 18th Nov '16 - 10:21am

    Laudable, as the increase is, our gains have somewhat stopped of late.

  • Richard Underhill 18th Nov '16 - 11:01am

    Caron Lindsay: Good to see you back, best wishes.

  • These results suggest a recovery to Pre-Witney levels but its only 3 seats. I dont know when we can expect numbers of byelections to recover, not till well after New Year I suppose ?

  • Sue Sutherland 18th Nov '16 - 12:56pm

    Welcome back Caron. Hope everything is OK with you and yours. I was sad about the Bath result but what it does do is provide figures to support tactical voting again in local and Parliamentary elections.

  • It is not realistic to try and discern trends from one weeks results but it is good to see all seats fort with 2nd place in two wards well placed for next time. In both of those the combined vote of the two progressive parties was greater than the Con’s vote.
    I don’t know the local circumstances, but maybe there is scope for cooperation with the Greens in areas such as these.

  • gavin grant 18th Nov '16 - 1:19pm

    Abbey Ward in B&NES is a tricky one to campaign in. It’s in the centre of Bath itself. Tory voters are in large and very expensive houses. Many others have been converted into multi-occupation for young professionals and students. So the population is hard to reach and transient. In 2015 the Ward was “all up”. Abbey returned a split result as it did in 2011. This time the Greens took the second seat from us with the Tories retaining top spot. So although this was a “Green” defence it is a Tory Ward. The Tories also made much of the Greens being the challengers. Voter contact was limited due to high tps registers on phones, fewer landlines and ansafones on doors. Our candidate and team worked hard but the expectation was that we could move back into the challenger position but it would be a struggle to win – and that was indeed the result. Our message needs to be clear. In places like this “If you vote Green, you get the Blues!” We lost Bath in 2015 because too many 2010 Lib Dems defected to Labour and Greens. If they return in the way they did in Abbey yesterday, I would be confident of a Lib Dem MP in 2020 or sooner I’d Mrs May wants a General Election.

  • Interesting You Gov polling on our prospects locally as well as nationally.
    “YouGov: LDs could edge in front of LAB if it was only party with a promise of a 2nd referendum”.

    In late 2002 and 2003 the IDS-led Tories gave their backing to Blair’s invasion of Iraq. The Charles Kennedy-led LDs were the only national party to oppose and this stance stance helped them to their best ever performance at GE2005.

    We’ve now got a similar situation with BREXIT. May’s Tories have totally dished the idea and Labour’s position, like all things these Corbyn/McDonnell days, is ambivalent. The LDs are saying that there should be a second referendum when the actual terms are agreed.

    In some new polling published overnight YouGov has tested the proposition and the results should provide encouragement to Farron’s party.
    Overall the Cons would have 39%, we would be second on 22%!! and
    Amongst 2016 REMAIN voters the split was
    CON 24
    LAB 23
    LD 42
    UKIP 1

    I reckon some of that is showing in the local elections, to almost capture the seat Welwyn/Hatfield from a persistently and historic low position was quite something.

  • Martin’s last point is worth noting. The majority of English constituencies that voted Remain or only narrowly Leave are Tory held with a tradition of strong Liberal Democrat support (not necessarily evident in 2015, of course).

    When it becomes clear to Bath voters that Labour and the Greens are going nowhere, but the Liberal Democrats are recovering, many more of those voters will drift back.

  • They may well – let’s hope so.
    When and if they do, they will need a vision to motivate and inspire them as do members which is more than, as someone said the other day – oppose brexit and err some other stuff probably.

    There are some marvellous minds here with values which are capable of inspiring even the most cynical of voters

    My challenge to everyone is what is there to lose by harnessing all this energy and intellect into coming up with some workable proposals that most lib dens can get behind?

  • ethicsgradient 18th Nov '16 - 6:08pm


    I’m am trying to deduce patterns from those results. All three show Labour losses ans marginal party losses (green + independents). All three show good Lib Dem gains.

    Interestingly UKIP also shows gains while the Tories are small (+/-) change in two of them.

    That last one (Misterton) showing big Tory fall, but the vote splitting to Lib Dems and UKIP respectively.

    What does this mean? well… (I’m not sure on data size, turnout counts etc, so I’m free-rolling here)

    Tory support seems to be broadly supported. Labour support continues to leech away ( corbyn, dis-united, not clear on Europe).

    Big chances for Lib Dems to secure some of the centre left/pro-europe franchise.

    Misterton result shows vote splitting on pro/anti-EU lines ( support to LibDems and UKIP) indicating potential polarization of voters around the issue in areas where to referendum result was close to a 50/50 split.

  • Christopher Haigh 18th Nov '16 - 6:26pm

    @ethicsgradient. Good analysis. The Liberal Democrat leadership now really needs to lay into UKIP and split them apart between their irreconcilable concepts of free trade libertarianism and Trump like protectionism.

  • Andrew McCaig 18th Nov '16 - 6:38pm

    Paul Barker:
    Strange, but I was finally going to agree with you that the by-elections this week and last do show an effect of parliamentary by-elections! In September I reckon we would probably have gained Bath Abbey and Haldens. But I don’t think the underlying trend has changed much since July..

  • An awful lot is being read into 3 results with total turnout of only 3k+ votes!

  • Welcome back, I hope everything is back on an even keel.

  • Betty Patterson 19th Nov '16 - 9:52am

    So glad you are back. Best wishes to you and yours from very old reader,
    Betty Patterson

  • The problem with telling people that if they vote green they get blue is that people don’t care since Clegg betrayed the policies and principles on which he was elected. If only Clegg had chosen his advisors more wisely and not been at heart a Tory wet. If you really want to get people voting tactically for your or even better positively for you then you need to offer positive reasons. The result in Bath was not a good sign, here is a badly run Council, mired in controversy and the Lib Dems were unable to turn that to their advantage. The net result of the by-election was to strengthen the Tory grip on the council.

  • Caron, do you know why we did not field a candidate at Dumfries, seemingly we had a 12% base to operate from? We might have come 3rd even 2nd.

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