++Stoke on Trent by-election – Lib Dem vote share more than doubles

Congratulations to Zulfiqar Ali and the team at Stoke-on-Trent for more than doubling our share of the vote at the by-election caused by Tristram Hunt’s resignation.

Labour held the seat.

After the result was announced, Liberal Democrat president Sal Brinton said from Stoke:

The Potteries decided there was no need to have UKIP’s official leader in parliament when UKIP’s unofficial leader is already in Number 10, pursuing a hard Brexit. We would have done even better but for many voters, drawn to the Lib Dems, who felt they just couldn’t risk being represented by a UKIP MP, so reluctantly backed Labour. Paul Nuttall called this seat Brexit Central but it turned out to be the end of the line for UKIP.

There is also little comfort for Labour, whose vote share has more than halved here in less than two decades. This is on top of an incredibly tough night for them in Copeland. It shows that if we are to turn out this divided and uncaring Conservative Brexit government, the Liberal Democrats will be the ones making the progressive case to keep Britain open, tolerant and united. We started from a low base here but our vote is picking up and this is yet another sign that the Lib Dem fight-back is on.

Here is the result in full plus some sexy bar charts tweeted by the Press Association’s Ian Jones:

Gareth Snell (Lab) 7,853 (37.09%, -2.22%)
Paul Nuttall (Ukip) 5,233 (24.72%, +2.07%)
Jack Brereton (C) 5,154 (24.35%, +1.80%)
Zulfiqar Ali (LD) 2,083 (9.84%, +5.67%)
Adam Colclough (Green) 294 (1.39%, -2.22%)
Barbara Fielding (Ind) 137 (0.65%)
The Incredible Flying Brick (Loony) 127 (0.60%)
David Furness (BNP) 124 (0.59%)
Godfrey Davies (CPA) 109 (0.51%)
Mohammed Akram (Ind) 56 (0.26%)

Lab maj 2,620 (12.38%)
2.14% swing Lab to Ukip

Electorate 57,701; Turnout 21,170 (36.69%, -13.24%)

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in News and Parliamentary by-elections.


  • Great to see an increase in lib dem votes, but one fact not focuses on here is the shocking 37% turnout. When the UK press has been beside itself with excitement over who lives in Stoke, who tweeted what 10 years ago and Donald Trump has brought more attention on politics than ever before… The public have said we are not engaged so we are not turning out.

    Solving the engagement issue is the real opportunity for growth – remember there were enough voters tucked up at home to give someone a landslide victory!

  • I too am shocked at how low the turn-out was for both by-elections. I have to guess the reasoning, but I would say that some didn’t vote at all because they are fed up with all politicians, and I’d guess that some traditional Labour voters chose not to vote than to switch allegiances. I hope the Labour leadership acknowledge, at least to themselves, that some of their vote share in Stoke will have come from voters desperate to keep Nuttall out of Parliament.

    I’m very impressed to see the LibDem share double, but given our voting system, there will have been many who decided it was more important to prevent a UKIP win than to reward the policies and attitudes they really support. In some respects, that makes the increase more impressive, but in reality, it reveals a hurdle we’ll continue to face in many constituencies.

  • A reality check, I’m afraid. Less than 10% of 37% is not a lot – in a seat where we came second in 2010 with nearly enough votes to have won it this time..

    The only real positive is the pyrotechnic self destruction of a ‘professional footballer’ with a’ Ph.D’. who lost some ‘close personal friends’ and nearly became a ‘local resident’ in Stoke. Returning to his main job now of snake oil salesman.

  • I’m disappointed that UKIP managed to creep into second place in Stoke. it wouldn’t have happened without the obsessive media narrative about UKIP being the challenger and without Corbyn’s obsessive campaign which clearly painted UKIP as the main challenger. Unless it was a clever ploy to split the right-wing vote. The Tories would have taken it in the most shocking by-election result ever if the media and Corbyn hadn’t upped UKIP’s coverage. For a real flavour of where UKIP are going, look at the Copeland result where over half their vote switched to the Tories. Combined with the Lib Dems taking a smaller part of the Labour vote, the two party English hegemony, where 98.3% of MPs are now either Tory or Labour, is going to be absolutely dominated by a Tory landslide at the next election.

    Congratulations to the Lib Dem candidates on increasing their share of the vote, but the Lib Dems now have little influence over British politics, thanks to Clegg.

  • If you want to encourage more people to engage with politics, than you have to address their concerns, provide a vision for the country that is realistic and makes sense, communicate it clearly and consistently by multiple channels, be clear on what your values are and how they translate into proposals and policies that people can understand on their level and recognise as true and just.

    No party has an inspirational message that is joined up makes sense to the man/women in the street, brings the country together and gives the general populous a reason to be proud at the moment.

  • Byelections always concentrate the voters’ minds on who has a real chance of winning the seat. That factor often works to our advantage, for example Labour’s vote in Richmond Park was remorselessly squeezed. In Stoke and Copeland, the squeeze factor worked to our disadvantage. The Greens in Stoke faced the same squeeze factor and lost more than half their vote share. Despite the squeeze factor we doubled our vote share. No triumph, but certainly not a bad result!

  • Laurence Cox 24th Feb '17 - 12:06pm

    I don’t think that anyone should be displeased with the results in Stoke and Copeland. Both constituencies polled around 4% for the Lib Dems in 2015. Putting the average 4.7% increase in the by-election vote on top of the average 8% across the country achieved in 2015, gives just under 13%, which is near the top of our national polling range. So it looks like most of the national polls are accurate in showing the Lib Dems in low double figures, but clearly above their 2015 level. A gain of 4% over this period projected through to 2020 could result in the Lib Dems polling in the high teens by the next GE. What that will mean in seats depends on how the vote is distributed.

  • There was very little squeeze going on in Stoke-on-Trent Central. UKIP should have squeezed the Conservative vote but failed. The only vote share (apart from Labour) to be significantly reduced was the independent and Green. The number of people who voted for us increased by 787, no other party (apart from those who didn’t stand in 2015) did this.

  • nvelope2003 24th Feb '17 - 2:11pm

    Copeland rarely had a very strong Liberal, Social Democrat in the 1980s, or Liberal Democrat vote and apart from 1997 Labour did not have a huge majority. In recent years their majority has declined. A majority of 2564 does not make it a “safe Labour seat” as the media has portrayed it. I suspect it may become a relatively safe Conservative seat in future because of demographic changes which have now become manifest in political terms.

    Recent Liberal Democrat gains, especially in local government by elections have largely been in seats where the party was traditionally strong, such as in the West Country, SW London etc. In the circumstances the Liberal Democrats did surprisingly well in yesterday’s by elections.

  • @ Martin “our opposition to Brexit does allow us to develop a more sound platform of support.”

    For how long ?

  • nvelope2003 24th Feb '17 - 2:20pm

    AngrySteve: I think you are right that the media wanted a sensational UKIP win in Stoke and played down the Conservative’s chances. Had they been ahead of UKIP in the 2015 election, instead of 33 behind, I think more people would have voted Liberal Democrat, less would have voted Labour, the UKIP vote would have been squeezed as in Copeland and the Conservatives would have won.

  • Martin – so we fill the void left by UKIP as a EU protest party? May be effective but it feels short term to me. Would prefer to attract voters based on a coherent policy offering that appeals longer term and not one of protest.

  • Martin – my comment arises from frustration regarding the focus placed on the apparent potential of returning from irrelevance via anti-Brexit campaigning. I fundamentally disagree that focusing our efforts on the finer detail of our relationship with Europe will attract sufficient long term support to regain significance.

    If your intention, summarising, is to attract remainers then keep them, I am in total agreement. My only disagreement is that it will take more than that to challenge Con/Lab… But maybe i am being obtuse (unintentionally)!

  • On the news earlier, there were Stoke residents saying that UKIP struggled in a Brexit area because there’s more going on that being pro/against Brexit, especially now they’ve ‘got’ Brexit.

    We’re in the position of appealing to a protest vote, but the electorate as a whole don’t want single-issue politicians. We have the advantage of being a rounded party, with a whole range of policies, but we are vulnerable to focusing too much on this single issue, and even more vulnerable to having the media portray us as such. It is essential that when we do talk of Brexit, we use it as an opportunity to introduce other policies, and take other opportunities to put Brexit to the side altogether.

  • Richard Underhill 24th Feb '17 - 9:08pm

    Top psephologist Professor John Curtice has said that UKIP have their strategy wrong, They should not be trying to collect votes from Labour supporters, while the data showed that Tory-inclined voters in Labour-held seats are more likely to switch to UKIP than electors who had previously voted Labour.
    Former UKIP leaders Nigel Farage and Diane James have commented on the outcome in Stoke. She says that she is now an independent and is not currently a UKIP member. She is still an MEP, so does her disaffiliation from UKIP affect the political and financial viability of the cross-party group that Nigel Farage set up in the European Parliament?

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Feb '17 - 1:29am

    I’m butting in from Copeland on this thread because of comments above. There should be some expert analysis, but as a local campaigner I see no reason why Copeland should settle into a regular Tory seat, nvelope 2003. When the bad results of Brexit start to affect Tory Government popularity, there will be a greater chance of Lib Dem growth.
    As it was, I wasn’t aware of a strong bias against us as Remainers in a constituency with majority Leavers, but yet did come across personally a handful of people objecting to our wanting another referendum. If that did lose us some votes, again the expected difficulties of the EU negotiations should surely diminish such objections. Incidentally, there was a much higher proportion of voters in Copeland than in Stoke – 51% turnout here.

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