Tag Archives: 2023 local elections

Young Liberals’ Local Elections campaigning and successes

In May, we at the English Young Liberals got massively stuck into campaigning for the local elections! Proving ourselves to be a massive driving force in the locals, we held multiple action days in twenty different locations across the country, with many often happening on the same day. We’d like to thank all the local parties in supporting us setting up these action days, and to give a huge thank you to every Young Liberal that turned up and made the action days a success!

As well as campaigning, we also saw at …

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14,000 voters turned away – but probably many more

At the time of the local elections last month in England many of us were concerned that voters were being turned away at polling stations because they did not have the required photo ID. I wrote this post at the time: “Voter ID – did it prevent electoral fraud or did it interfere with voters’ rights?

I was telling for a couple of hours in a neighbouring borough, where a greeter checked everyone’s ID before they entered the polling station. Apparently greeters were employed at 40% of the polling stations. The significance of this is that voters who were turned away outside were not recorded at all – it was only those who got inside and were then turned away who were noted in the stats.

The Electoral Commission has published some preliminary findings with a more detailed report expected later in the year. It says that 14,000 would-be voters were not issued ballot papers – a figure that is worrying in itself – but it does not know how many were caught by the greeters before they stepped inside the polling station.

We also have to remember that this report covers only a proportion of English councils – 260 out of 383 across the UK – and that the turnout at local elections is about half of that at general elections. My rough calculation suggest that the figure of 14,000 could be grossed up to 40,000 if it had been a general election instead.

Back to the hard facts in the report. It seems that 8% of those eligible to vote in May did not know about the ID requirement, but that percentage was even lower amongst ethnic minorities and 18-24 year olds, where a whopping 18% were unaware that they had to produce ID.

The figure of 14,000 does not include those who were initially turned away but who returned later in the day with acceptable ID and were able to vote.

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Great results for Alliance in Northern Ireland local elections

As we mentioned on Friday, the local elections in Northern Ireland took place two weeks later than the ones in England, so we have been able to focus this week on the progress of our sister party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.

These are four year all-in, all-out elections using STV. Wards are grouped into District Electoral Areas which elect five, six or seven councillors, depending on size, so understandably, the count has been quite lengthy in some areas. In total 462 seats have been contested across 11 local councils, and the count was only completed at around midnight last night. I now understand why they moved the elections from the Thursday before the Coronation.

The headline news is that Sinn Féin has surged into a clear lead, with the Alliance also increasing its vote share substantially. The final status of the parties is:

  • Sinn Féin: 144 (up 38)
  • DUP: 122 (no change)
  • Alliance: 67 (up 14)
  • UUP: 54 (down 21)
  • SDLP: 39 (down 20)
  • Others: 36 (down 12)

This pattern is also reflected in the first preference vote share, where the Alliance lies in 3rd place behind Sinn Féin and the DUP, having leapfrogged the UUP and SDLP from fifth position in 2019.

The Alliance’s best result was in Lisburn and Castlereagh, just to the south of Belfast, where they have 13 seats, just one behind the DUP’s 14.

Congratulations on a great showing all round!



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Mark Pack’s May report – Another great success

It’s vital to learn from failures. But it’s much more fun to learn from successes. So there is a lot of fun to be had in learning the lessons for the Liberal Democrats from the latest local elections.

Let’s summarise those successes with three numbers:

  • +407 seats – the party’s second biggest gain in raw seats since the mid-1990s.
  • +12 councils – taking the number of Lib Dem majority councils to its highest for at least 18 years.
  • 20% equivalent national share – the highest on this BBC measure since going into coalition in 2010. (The alternative NEV measure was the joint best since 2010.)

However, it’s important to remember that not everyone who hoped to win did so. For colleagues who were seeking election but didn’t make it, it can be even tougher when all around people are celebrating. If you, or someone close to you, is in that position, my commiserations and thanks for all you’ve done.

Five in a row

Perhaps the most important element of the local election results is one that has been mostly overlooked. It’s that the Lib Dems have now made it five rounds of local elections in a row at which we’ve made net gains. You have to go back to 2002-6 for the last time we did that.

Another way of looking at our progress is the cumulative gains and losses so far in May elections during this Parliament:

  • Lib Dems +637
  • Greens +416
  • Labour +318
  • Conservatives -1,309

That’s the sort of sustained progress which has been an important part of the party’s strategy in this Parliament: investing in our grassroots campaigning support, for both stronger and weaker areas, concentrating on target seats at election time but expanding our areas of strength as we do. Sustained grassroots growth is what will make us a successful national party.

The most dramatic progress was against the Conservatives, and as in 2019 once again our vote share did best the more an area had voted Remain. In areas that voted Remain in 2016, our vote share was up nearly 1.5 points on average, though in areas that voted 60% or more Leave in 2016, our vote share was down just under a point.

But in addition, many groups primarily up against Labour managed to grow, including us becoming the official opposition on Sunderland Council.

Overall, in the places with zero or one Lib Dem council seat up for election this time, we made a net 21 gains, going from 32 councillors in these councils to 53. Four times as many of these smaller places went forward as went back and we went up in every region.

Map of Lib Dem seat gains in May 2023 local elections


Regional breakdown of seat changes in May 2023 local elections

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Perfect balance: The Liberal Democrats’ ideal outcome at the next General Election

The 2023 local elections have finally passed. Many of us put a great deal of time and effort into leafleting and canvassing around our communities to get out the vote and even to sway some voters. At these elections, we won a net gain of over 400 councillors and control of the councils in:

  • Chichester
  • Horsham
  • Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Dacorum
  • West Berkshire
  • South Oxfordshire
  • Guildford
  • Surrey Heath
  • Windsor and Maidenhead
  • Mid Devon
  • South Hams
  • Teignbridge
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Update on local election results – and I’m smiling, a lot

As I write 179 Councils have declared out of 230, and the news is good! We have increased the number of councillors by 255 and the Conservatives have lost 741 to a mixture of Labour, Lib Dems and Greens. We have gained control of seven councils – Stratford on Avon, Chichester, Windsor & Maidenhead, Dacoram, Mid Devon, Teignbridge and South Hams, and increased our councillors in many others.

A lovely orange banana is appearing down in Devon. At the top geographically is North Devon, where just one gain pushed us to over 50% of the seats. Next is Mid Devon, where we gained an astonishing 21 more councillors, giving us 33 out of 42. Below them lies Teignbridge where we now hold 26 out of 47 seats. And finally we meet the sea again in South Hams where we gained a stonking 9 councillors from the Tories, taking us into control with a clear majority.

Further north in Tewkesbury the Conservatives have lost control and we are now the largest party on the Council – negotiations will follow.

It’s a similar picture in Elmbridge where we are now the largest party, although in this case the Conservatives still lie in third place behind the Residents Associations.

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Voter ID – did it prevent electoral fraud or did it interfere with voters’ rights?

Various reports have been coming in about the impact of Voter ID on the polls.

The first thing to say is that almost all voters got the message and turned up with correct ID. But some didn’t, and that is worrying. Worse still we don’t actually know how many people were turned away in some council areas.

I was telling yesterday in Elmbridge and the council had employed one extra polling clerk at each polling station this time. Their job was to greet voters outside as they arrived, check they had suitable ID and then point them in the right direction. That may sound a sensible idea until you realise one thing. If a voter went inside the polling station without ID then this was recorded by the polling staff; if they then returned with the correct ID and voted then that was, of course, recorded too. So it should be possible to find out how many people were turned away for lack of ID and how many of those returned later to vote.  But where a greeter was employed there was no record of how many were turned away since they didn’t actually enter the polling station.

So I am bound to ask, why did the Council employ this tactic and who paid for the extra staff ? Were they just being kind hearted, unaware of the way it would supress data on those who were turned away? Or were Heads of Democratic Services advised to do this by a higher power?

The BBC has this: Voters express anger at ID rule changes. It includes a case where an immuno-supressed woman was unable to vote because she was not prepared to remove her mask for identification purposes.

Tom Brake, the former Lib Dem MP, is now the director of the Unlock Democracy, which has been campaigning against Voter ID. He is referred to in the BBC post:

(Tom Brake) said his organisation had been tracking social media throughout the day, and that it was clear that a “significant number of people didn’t know about the need for voter ID”.

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Ed has a big blue countdown clock

Victory gathering this morning in Windsor.

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This is a groundbreaking night for the Liberal Democrats. We are exceeding all expectations. We have delivered a hammer blow to the Conservative Party in the Blue Wall ahead of next year’s general election.

That was Ed Davey early this morning BEFORE we heard the result from Windsor and Maidenhead.

Yesterday’s elections were built on the excellent results for the Lib Dems in 2019, so we were being somewhat cautious about our capacity to increase our wins this time. On the other hand the Conservatives had been managing expectations by making out that fewer than 1000 losses on the night would be a victory of sorts. In the event, the night ended with the Tories already down by 228 councillors, with some of the most vulnerable blue wall areas yet to be counted. Lib Dems are already up by 61, and three quarters of all councils are yet to declare.

So what happened in Windsor and Maidenhead? This is what happened:

LDEM: 61.0% (+37.5)
CON: 24.2% (-14.3)
LAB: 14.8% (+2.6)

Just savour that for a minute. We gained 13 seats to take control for the first time, and …

Now I wonder if anyone tried to canvass the King?

So what else has been going on since our last post?

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Lib Dems enjoy not feeling sad after election.

It’s just past 2am the 5th May and we’re already seeing some impressive results coming in for Lib Dems all over the country! In many places even where we aren’t winning we’re seeing good increases in vote shares even in the face of lower turnouts which really speaks to the hard work being done by activists all over the country. The BBC is reporting we’re up 2% in their key wards overall, 3% in high remain voting levels and 0.5% in high leave remaining areas with 189 of 792 counted

While a lot of counts aren’t happening until the morning we at LDV at far too excitable/masochistic/nerdy to wait that long so join us in celebrating some of our early wins!

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Good coverage for Lib Dems ahead of local elections

Voters head to the polls tomorrow in local elections in many places across England. When these seats were last up, we did exceptionally well, gaining an incredible 700 Councillors and 10 Councils.

Then, the Conservatives lost over 3500 councillors and 44 Councils while Labour also had a small net loss.

Those were strange times. Millions turned to us in that election and the European elections a few weeks later and we became the focal point for opposition to Brexit. At that point we still held on to the hope that it might be stopped and we might secure a People’s Vote.

The signs on the ground bode well for further success next week. The Conservatives remain unpopular and we are hoping to gain in the so called Blue Wall seats we hope to win from the Conservatives in the General Election.

Ed did the media round yesterday and set out our stall well, talking first about the cost of living crisis on Good Morning Britain:

He also slammed the Government’s new voter ID requirements.

On Saturday, the Guardian had a piece on the Lib Dem plan to take Berkhamstead:

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Mark Pack: My monthly report to members

A great result on candidate numbers

There’s been a big increase in the number of Liberal Democrat candidates for this May’s local elections. We’ve got up to 60% of seats having a Lib Dem candidate (up seven points on last time around). It’s our best showing for this part of the local elections cycle compared with Labour since 2011 and compared with the Conservatives since 2007.

That’s important for our credibility with voters. It means so many more people will see the Liberal Democrat name and logo on their ballot papers. It also matters for our credibility with the media, as the positive coverage in The Guardian demonstrates.

We still have some way to go to match Labour’s 77% or the Conservatives 93%. But it’s a big step forward and follows up progress earlier this Parliament. As well as being important progress in its own right, it’s just the sort of sustained, coordinated push that we need to build us up for a sustained, long-term challenge to the big parties.

Many thanks to everyone who helped achieve this progress – and very best of luck to everyone who is standing in a seat they hope to win this May.

For a fair deal

You may well have noticed how much more the party is talking about campaigning for a fair deal – such as on the backdrop at our York conference or in the March party political broadcast on TV in England.

It’s the positive part of our message that complements our call to ‘send them a message’, highlighting the failures of the Conservatives in Westminster and Labour in so many other elected bodies – not to mention the spectacularly imploding SNP in Scotland.

That fairness theme goes to the heart of what makes us Liberal Democrats. It’s no coincidence either that it’s worked so well for us previously, such as with Charles Kennedy.

There will be more on what the Liberal Democrat version of fairness means in the ‘pre-manifesto’ policy document coming out over the summer for our autumn conference.

When will the general election be?

All of which prompts the question – when will the next Westminster general election come? The short answer is no-one knows, not even the Prime Minister.

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Liberal Democrats and Labour want the Tories out, but we must resist the descent into cheap culture-war politics

Liberal Democrats and Labour both want the Tories out, but we must resist the descent into cheap culture-war politics

 My job as the Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition in Southwark is to hold Southwark’s Labour Council to account. There’s much we don’t agree on: the lack of affordable homes for local people, rising crime, the state of our estates, poor customer service from the council, Labour feathering their own nests and marking their own homework, the lack of urgency on the climate emergency… to name but a few!

 However, Liberal Democrats and Labour are both progressive parties and have more in common than divides us. We share a goal that becomes more desperately important every day – getting the Tories out of government.

 The last decade of Conservative government has been a financial, social and environmental disaster for the UK. Public services are crippled by strikes, people are feeling the pinch and the economy is set to shrink, Brexit has been a disaster and any kind of meaningful response to the climate emergency is entirely absent.

 The only response the Conservatives have to their endless failures is to drag political discourse down to cheap, culture war battles. They attack the vulnerable and heighten divisions to distract from the downward spiral they have left the UK in.

 It is vitally important that the opposition parties resist this degradation of our political landscape. Unfortunately, Labour seems unable to resist the temptation. We all want rid of this terrible Tory Government. As Ed Davey said at Spring Conference “ only goal seems to be: “Not as bad as the Conservatives”. Talk about a low bar!” We all deserve so much better.

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This week in the local elections

This week in the local elections, Lib Dems across England have been getting a great reception on the doorsteps. This is often, for activists, the toughest weekend of the campaign. You’ve been campaigning all year round of course, but particularly intensively for weeks and you’re starting to get a bit knackered.  It is amazing how quickly you go from “there’s still another 10 days to go” to “oh yikes, I need to get these last eve of poll jobs done” though.

Our teams across the country are doing an amazing job. If you haven’t got elections on your patch, offer to help someone who has. There is so much to gain for us in these elections. The more Lib Dem Councillors we gain, the better and fairer the local services we can deliver.

In Derbyshire Ross Shipman is seeing the benefits of his hard work for his community:

And our councillors in Tunbridge Wells have put out a snazzy video highlighting their work

And there’s a street stall in Portsmouth:

In Worcestershire they are making a LOT of stakeboards

When the Tiverton and Honiton by-election was called, Richard Foord know that local councillors had built a strong foundation for him. Now, he is out trying to get them re-elected.

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14 April 2023 – today’s press release

Scrap Voter ID when Parliament returns on Monday

Commenting on today’s warning from the Local Government Association not to underestimate the difficulties Voter ID will cause for local authorities, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson Helen Morgan MP said:

Today’s warning on voter ID from the LGA shows the Conservative Government cannot bury their heads in the sand any longer. This is a national scandal that could end in a disaster for our democracy.

The Government must urgently back my Liberal Democrat Bill which would end these regulations swiftly in the three weeks left before polling day.

The moment Parliament returns on Monday,

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The weekend in the Lib Dem Local Elections

Everyone knows that the Easter Bank Holiday for political activists is not about lying around and scoffing chocolate.

With the local elections three and a half weeks away, activists up and down the country have been delivering leaflets and knocking on doors.

And there’s a lot to play for.

Yesterday’s Observer had a great article on our campaign, showing how our number of candidates has gone up, while the Tories are not putting up a full slate in areas where they have done before:

While the number of Tory candidates registered to stand – 7,512 – is still comfortably the highest, Ed Davey’s party says there are clear signs that it is now in a better position to exploit Tory difficulties at national level than for many years.

Lib Dem officials say that in many councils across the country where the Tories should be strong, from Stockport in the north-west to Lewes in East Sussex, the Tory party is not fielding full slates of candidates.

The Conservative peer and local government expert Robert Hayward said the Tories would be disappointed not to be able to field more candidates, and that it was clear the Lib Dems were making progress. But he said this was partly to do with council reorganisations, which meant that some areas where the Tories were traditionally strong were not being contested this time.

Ed is quoted:

“In councils across the country, the Liberal Democrats are the party to take on the Conservatives, who have failed people for far too long.

“Whether it is the Conservatives’ cost of living crisis, their failure to manage our NHS or the fact they let water companies pump filthy sewage into our rivers, people are ready for change, and the Liberal Democrats are ready to deliver.”

And yesterday’s I has an article on our hopes and aspirations in the Blue Wall:

Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Berkshire are among the areas where Sir Ed Davey‘s team is confident of making gains. Insiders say demographic change has helped their cause: the “Surrey shuffle”, which has seen young professionals move out of London due to rising house prices, is putting pressure on long-serving MPs such as Dominic Raab and Sir John Redwood, both top targets for the Lib Dems at the next general election. Strategists also suggest the passage of time has helped erase lingering bitterness about the legacy of the coalition government, which had long put off many left-leaning voters.

Around the country, campaigners have been out in the sunshine:

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Our latest Party Political Broadcast

In case you missed it yesterday, here is our latest PPB, supporting the local election campaign:

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Smashing the Blue Wall with a tractor

We promised you pictures from the launch of the party’s local election campaign today. Not content with a mallet, Ed Davey smashed the Blue Wall with a yellow tractor.

And this is what Ed said:

People are having to wait hours for an ambulance, weeks for a GP appointment or months for urgent cancer treatment as the NHS crisis spirals out of control. But the Conservatives have failed to deliver the new hospitals they promised and are breaking their pledge to recruit more GPs. It shows this Conservative government is out of touch, out of ideas and out of excuses.

The local elections in May are a chance to send a message that enough is enough: the British people are fed up with being taken for granted by the Conservative Party and want them out of government. From Stockport to Surrey, from Eastbourne to Esher, lifelong Conservative voters are saying ‘never again’ and backing Liberal Democrat candidates instead.

People are turning to the Liberal Democrats because they know we work hard for our communities, we hear your concerns, and we never take you for granted. It’s why we gained more seats than any other party at last year’s local elections – and why I know we’ll have more to celebrate across the country in May.

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Ed Davey to launch Lib Dem local election campaign

Ed Davey will today launch the Lib Dem campaign for this year’s local elections, which take place on 4th May.

And he’s already getting some good coverage. The theme for today is health, as that is what people are raising most with us on the doorstep. We are calling for an extra 8000 GPs to fill the massive gaps in coverage and service.

Here’s Ed talking to BBC Breakfast this morning:

From the BBC:

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey called on the government to create a legal right for patients to see a GP within seven days.

May’s council elections are the “final chance” to send a message to the government before a general election, Mr Davey will add.

On 4 May, 230 councils across England will hold an election.

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Recent Comments

  • Peter Martin
    @ Paul Barker, There may only be a very small chance but that's literally infinitely greater than "no chance"! There would be an even greater chance if th...
  • Paul Barker
    Again, a pointless article - perhaps The Voice Team could think about rejecting pieces that are just nonsense ? Short of War, there is no chance of any result ...
  • David Allen
    "Unfair to say we ‘re saying nothing" Up to a point, yes. However, being against sewage dumping isn 't exactly sticking your head above the parapet and br...
  • Ruth Bright
    Caron, sorry to display my ignorance here but could you tell members like me outside Scotland more about the National care service stuff? Genuinely interested....
  • David Garlick
    Where is a JFK when you need someone to draw the line. No line ,no stopping Putin. rearming is essential. Is the current long away target sufficient? I think ...