The three things I’ll be looking for in today’s results

The extent to which county council election results tell us about the state of politics in the country is without doubt significantly overstated. Only a fraction of the population voted yesterday, and in places that are not representative of the country as a whole.

But the results can tell us some things, and here is what I am looking out for.

1 – How do votes translate into council seats won?

As all Liberal Democrats know, winning votes is little fun at all unless it also means winning seats, and those two things are far from the same in a first-past-the-post electoral system. What’s important for the Liberal Democrats – and, by extension, for Ukip – is not overall vote share but seats won.

2 – Where are the Liberal Democrats doing well?

This follows from (1) above, as again one solitary seat on a county council, nice as that may be, is unlikely to have a wider impact beyond that one seat. Only if victories are clustered in concentrated areas will the winning of seats have a significant wider impact. Most obviously, we need to be winning council seats in the places we hope to do well in 2015 – and so far the early results look positive on that front.

3 – The effect of Ukip

It is my long-stated belief – which I’m happy to repeat today – that Ukip will not win a single parliamentary seat in 2015. They simply have not grasped (perhaps by choice) how a small party can win seats in the UK: by ruthlessly targeting, and growing the numbers one by one if necessary. So the effect of Ukip will be more subtle. It is generally thought that a higher Ukip vote assists Lib Dems by splitting the Tory vote – Eastleigh was a perfect example. Did the higher Ukip vote help the Lib Dems win and retain seats on county councils?

* Nick Thornsby is a day editor at Lib Dem Voice.

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3 Comments

  • Jonathan Brown 3rd May '13 - 6:00pm

    “It is generally thought that a higher Ukip vote assists Lib Dems by splitting the Tory vote – Eastleigh was a perfect “example.”

    I think we might have got past that point. I’ve been thinking for some time now that UKIP are a real danger to us. We take for granted that they’ll steal votes from the Tories, but despite the difference in policies between us and them, they’re able to attract a lot of the anti-incumbent tactical votes from us. And I think that happened in Eastleigh too – more than is generally acknowledged. The focus is all on ‘the Tories lost because UKIP stood’ and so the media (and our party) have missed that they took a lot of votes from us too.

    I lost to Diane James’ sister today! Or rather, the incumbent Tory did – I finished a distant third.

  • David Evans 3rd May '13 - 9:05pm

    The one thing I will be looking for when the results are known is the comments made by our party spokesmen to the media. If they indicate even the slightest acknowledgement of the mess we are in, it will be a step towards solving the problem. if is just another rationalization of how we wish the world would look on us, I know there is no chance Nick et al will even realize they have to change and the carnage will be continued into 2014 and 2015 and be awful.

  • On the contrary, we should be using UKIP as a caricature of the Tory nasty party in Tory-facing seats, with materials about what a UKIP-Tory Government would mean: withdrawal from the EU (and EEA in order to stop European citizens working here), massive fall in investment, a deep recession, run on the pound, inflation, doubling of unemployment, tax cuts for the rich and for motorists paid for by massive welfare cuts (but probably leading to a rise in the deficit), planning free-for-all, privatisation of the NHS, repeal of the human rights act and attacks on civil liberties, more discrimination against women, ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, elderly, and disabled in education and the workplace, return to school selection, still higher tuition fees possibly also at sixth forms, doubling of the prison population, huge increase in defence spending and renewal of Trident, acting as a US poodle in rendition and foreign adventures, cosy arms deals with dictators, increased powers for landlords and social cleansing, more sleaze and patronage with increased influence for wealthy donors and media tycoons such as Murdoch, repeals of protections for consumers, employees, children, the elderly, cyclists, pedestrians, and the environment, visa requirements and expulsions of existing European residents, fewer taxes and restrictions on motorists, less recycling and renewable energy, lots more roads and airports, cancellation of high-speed rail projects.

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