This week’s by-elections: A town council gain but a big loss in Bucks for the Liberal Democrats

There’s not much to take joy from for the Liberal Democrats in this week’s crop of by-elections.

In South Buckinghamshire, we took a bit of a pasting in Iver Village and Richings Park where we were defending the seat. The result was as follows:

Conservative 422 46.9% (-6%)

UKIP 377  41.9% (+41.9%)

Liberal Democrats (Peter Chapman) 101 11.2% (-35.9)

The Tories nearly lost it too.

The last time this ward was fought was in 2011. The turnout then was nearly double at 38.93%. On Thursday it was only 20.4%.

In 2011, it was a straight fight between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The 3 Tory candidates polled a total of 2332 votes as against 1653 for the Liberal Democrats. I suspect much of our vote stayed at home on Thursday but it’s certainly a blow to have no Liberal Democrat representation in the ward at all.

Elsewhere in Buckinghamshire, we held on to a Town Council seat much more convincingly  in Aylesbury’s Elmhurst ward. The Tories got hammered, finishing in 4th. I’d like to have seen the previous result to show the percentage but I can’t find it. This is a strong District Council ward for us, so it is good that our vote has held up.

Liberal Democrat Niknam Hussein 584 (51.5%)

UKIP 324 (28.5%)

Labour 120 (10.6%)

Conservative 77 (6.8%)

Green 30 (2.6%)

And there you have the sum total of Liberal Democrat involvement in by-elections this week. We had no candidate in Warwickshire where there was a reasonably predictable Labour hold, no candidate in Hambleton where (weep) the Tories were returned unopposed, nor in Richmondshire where just 275 people voted in total, resulting in a Conservative hold.

Looking ahead to next week I’ll be particularly interested in the one  in Highland Council’s Black Isle ward. Apart from the Black Isle being one of my favourite places on the planet, it’s also the ward also represented by Liberal Democrat Depute Council leader David Alston. It’s a four member ward with the other seats taken by SNP and another independent.

 

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

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19 Comments

  • ‘There’s not much to take joy from for the Liberal Democrats in this week’s crop of by-elections’.

    Why do you think that is Caron, and more importantly, do you really think the electorate are going to change their minds before 2015 ?

  • In St Iver it was a split seat previously with one candidate scoring hundreds of votes higher than the other two – looks like an entirely personal vote.

    In Elmshurst I’m told UKIP won the county seat in May so it’s an encouraging result as many people wanted to get rid of UKIP, and were prepared to support the Lib Dems to do so.

  • I too will watch the Black Isle by-election with interest as back when I lived there I helped David Alston in his campaign. I also knew the popular Independent Councillor Billy Barclay and was saddened to hear of his death. The person will be more important than the party label in this by-election I am sure.

  • “In St Iver it was a split seat previously with one candidate scoring hundreds of votes higher than the other two – looks like an entirely personal vote.”

    Well, of course that was in 2011, after the coalition had already taken its toll on Lib Dem support. And even then the Lib Dems managed to win one seat.

    In 2007 the Lib Dems won two out of the three, with the most popular candidate heading the poll by some distance :
    LD 809/671/521, Con 686/622
    http://thepollshavenowclosed.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/south-buckinghamshire-iver-village-and_13.html

    And now the Lib Dems are reduced to 11.2%.

    Can anyone come up with a better excuse?

  • “Why does the headline say Town Council Gain when it was a hold?”

    Gain sounds better?

  • Lets face it we’re finished for 3 or so years. Like the Moderates in Borgen we have to go away and renew. In the short term we have to expect a catastrophic european and then general election result. If only we could change the manager like Spurs have today, at least they recognise the reality and do something about it.

  • “Lets face it we’re finished for 3 or so years.”

    I think that may actually be too optimistic. Bearing in mind that the Tories still haven’t really recovered from their unpopularity in the 1990s. it’s quite possible that Nick Clegg’s legacy will endure for a decade or two.

  • theakes wrote:

    “Lets face it we’re finished for 3 or so years.”

    Not necessarily. If we left the so-called “coalition” tomorrow, we would regain some of our former supporters and possibly hold a majority of our seats in 2015. We wouldn’t be able to wipe away the stain of having been part of the “coalition” in the first place, not for a good number of years, but we would at least be free to campaign for our own policies and act like an independent party. If we remain within the “coalition”, then “finished” is being polite about it. We might even be, horror of horrors, looking at a Tory government propped up by UKIP.

    “In the short term we have to expect a catastrophic european”

    Strange as it may seem, I am mildly optimistic about the European election. If we go into it as the only major party that is enthusiastic about Britain’s membership, then we are likely to appeal to the substantial chunk of the electorate that isn’t Euro-sceptic. We could actually increase our representation.

    “If only we could change the manager like Spurs have today,”

    What would be the point of doing that? What scintilla of difference would a new leader make, if we remained part of the “coalition”? We’ve got to dispose of the notion that the catastrophic loss of support that the party has suffered is the fault of the leadership. It isn’t. It’s the “coalition”, not the leadership, that has caused that to happen. Having a new leader is as useful as changing the plumes on the horses drawing the hearse. Leaving the “coalition” would make a real difference in public perception and might just save the party.

  • So – Theakes thinks the crucial thing is to change the leader. Sesenco argues passionately that it isn’t that, the crucial thing is to pull out of coalition.

    Well – A distinction without a difference, surely? If we pulled out of coalition, Clegg would have lost a major battle, and would assuredly have to resign. Whereas if we were to decide to change leader, then surely our motivation would be to make a major change in our political position – which would almost certainly mean, leaving the coalition.

    I’m afraid that the reason why we are having this somewhat semantic debate is that we haven’t had the gumption to make these necessary changes. As a result, we are heading for oblivion.

    For most of the last three years I have argued that it is not too late to come to our senses, confront the Clegg coupists, and win our Party back. I now think it is too late. If we now pulled out of coalition, and/or threw out Clegg, the public would not believe we had seen sense. They would only believe that we had seen the cliff we are approaching in 2015, and had made desperate changes to try to save our own skins. The electoral bounce that Sesenco is seeking is no longer available.

    It’s not Sesenco’s fault, or theakes’s, or mine. It’s just that we’ve all “been Tories” too long. The public will not believe, until after 2015, that we could be anything else.

  • “been Tories” too long.
    The public will not believe, until after 2015, that we could be anything else.

    David Allen 17th Dec ’13 – 12:52am
    As so often, David Allen is correct.
    But we must do now whatever is necessary to prevent another one likeClegg taking his place when he inevitably goes.

  • “If we go into it as the only major party that is enthusiastic about Britain’s membership …”

    But what are the chances of that under Nick Clegg’s leadership? Undoubtedly his instinct will be to accentuate the Eurosceptic side of the Lib Dems’ support for Europe as a short-term electoral tactic, rather than pursuing a principled line.

    It’s the “coalition”, not the leadership, that has caused that to happen.

    Probably being in coalition was bound to be damaging to some extent. But what has been really devastating is the way that the leadership has approached and presented the coalition. The leadership is at the heart of the problem, though nearly the whole of the parliamentary party has acquiesced almost without a fight.

  • Paul in Twickenham 17th Dec '13 - 8:04am

    I regret having to agree with the regular Cassandras but the simple fact is that Mr Clegg has now spent so long sounding like a Tory – whether due to inclination or a misguided strategy intended to show that “coalition can work” – that any attempt at differentiation now looks hollow and opportunistic. This is nothing to do with the poor hand that the Liberal Democrats were dealt in 2010: it has everything to do with Mr Clegg’s manifest failure to defend the sound principles on which the party had built its platform. It’s too late now. 3 MEPs in May will be “balanced” by somewhat less disastrous local election results than recently and the leadership will remain as is.

  • Bill le Breton 17th Dec '13 - 8:28am

    David reminds us: “It’s just that we’ve all “been Tories” too long.” Well the Generals have been – not the poor blxxdy infantry for whom results like these are their weekly encounter with the great British public.

    Every budget, every Autumn statement , indeed every Conference we have wasted the chance to show distinctive Liberal Democracy.

    This Autumn statement should have been the chance, way back, immediately after the May elections, to involve the Party in involving the public in campaigning over its contents.

    Instead there was a back room deal on marriage tax allowances and free school lunches – presented as a rabbit out of a hat in Glasgow, whilst the Leader whipped in the great and the good to support an anodyne, self-congratulatory, Establishment fawning economic policy, and forced the best economist in the Parliamentary Party to sit through it all – his advice spurned … his presence ridiculed.

    Not only are the leaders instinctive Tory men, they wouldn’t know how to campaign their way out of a brown paper bag.

    So many campaigning opportunities from housing and jobs, low wages to monopoly abuse. And they thrash around, undecided from one day to the next as to “Dare we show dissent on this little issue here?”

  • Paul, we are not Cassandras, we are attempting to be realists. In the main, we are also radicals, some of us having spent a good proportion of our lives trying to build a radical alternative. So you could argue we have an emotional connection with this issue. That doesn’t stop reality from breaking through our analysis, though. Paul, given your location, and inevitable political connections / understanding, I am interested you think the London Borough elections will be, in relative terms, “a better result” than recent years. What evidence, even anecdotal, can you give us for that?

  • Tim13 17th Dec ’13 – 8:30am
    “Paul, given your location, and inevitable political connections / understanding, I am interested you think the London Borough elections will be, in relative terms, “a better result” than recent years.”

    Across the river from Paul in North Kingston I am beginning to see some cause for hope. The potential political impact of Heathrow is difficult to gauge yet. In addition, I am also curious to see if there will be any local political spin-off from the TV drama Lucan, in which the parents of the temporary Tory MP for Richmond Park are depicted amongst the very dubious characters who inhabit the shady world of society gambler, waster and misfit murderer Lord Lucan.

  • Paul in Twickenham 17th Dec '13 - 11:21am

    @Tim13 – the key word in my comment about my expectations for next year’s local elections is “less”. How many London boroughs (including Richmond) did we lose control or NOC in 2010? In how many do we now have some form of executive interest? I think the losses in 2010 exceed the total in which Lib Dems now have interest. And with thirds for many of the metropolitan boroughs and district councils it’s likely that results will be similar to those last time out which would be post-2010. As for the Euros I repeat my previous promise to donate £20 to charity for every Lib Dem more than 3 who is returned. I do not expect to be out of pocket.

  • Chris 17th Dec ’13 – 7:50am
    ” The leadership is at the heart of the problem, though nearly the whole of the parliamentary party has acquiesced almost without a fight. ”

    Yes indeed, some are simply looking forward to retirement because of age, some know that under Clegg they do not have a chance at the next election, some possibly thought they would give him the benefit of the doubt. Whatever the reason there has been lack of backbone amongst the parliamentary party. It is now time that more of them speak out and honestly tell the world what they say in private about the failure of Clegg and the Orange Gang.

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