Welcome to my day: 10 February 2023 – we didn’t win in West Lancashire…

I’m standing in for Caron today, so today will be slightly different to a usual Friday…

So, we had the overnight result in the West Lancashire Parliamentary by-election and it wasn’t exactly one of the great Liberal Democrat by-election triumphs…

  • Ashley Dalton (Labour) – 14,068 votes (62.3%, +10.2%)
  • Mike Prendergast (Conservatives) – 5,742 votes (25.4%, -10.9%)
  • Jonathan Kay (Reform UK) – 994 votes (4.4%, +0.1%)
  • Jo Barton (Liberal Democrats) – 918 votes (4.1%, -0.8%)
  • Peter Cranie (Green) – 646 votes (2.9%, +0.5%)
  • Howling Laud Hope (Monster Raving Loony) – 210 votes (0.9%, new)

Firstly, thanks to Jo for flying the flag in a constituency where we are unrepresented at principal authority level and where our highest vote share since merger was 14% in 2005 (Richard Kemp was our candidate then). That might smack of post-event expectations management, but West Lancashire probably wouldn’t fall to us in the event of a 1906-style landslide.

There was better news elsewhere though, with splendid wins in Cheltenham and North Yorkshire…

We’ll have the full ALDC report in due course, but you do get an increasing sense that, where there is an obvious means of beating a Tory, the electorate are more than willing to choose it, which doesn’t bode well for the boys and girls in blue.

The New Stateman’s polling model got the Labour and Conservative vote shares yesterday right to within 0.2%, and is suggesting that, based on their calculations, the Conservatives would lose 227 seats at a General Election, with Labour up 222 to 424 seats and the Liberal Democrats up to 22 seats. And with the Conservatives seemingly only able to unite around being beastly to migrants, it’s increasingly difficult to see how they could turn this around.

One of my successors as a member of the Party’s Federal International Relations Committee offers his take on his first meeting later today, and given how important the internationalist strand of our Party is likely to be in the months and years ahead, it’s reassuring to know how hard they’re working.

Other than that, the day is wide open so, if you’ve got a burning opinion that you’d like to share, go right ahead (bearing in mind our editorial policy, of course)…

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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


  • In Harrogate and North Yorkshire there are areas full of Conservatives who never have and never will vote for anything other than the Conservative Party. If they are profoundly distressed by the state of their party the only way they can register their anguish is by not voting for anybody – our old friend differential abstention, which can sometimes have dramatic consequences.
    That being said, thank you to the Harrogate and Cheltenham teams for cheering us up this morning.

  • Oddly between 1910 and 1974 I can’t see a Liberal candidate fielded in Ormskirk. In 1910 it was William Lever of Port Sunlight fame who performed respectably. Harold Wilson won in 1945 but decamped to Huyton, after boundary changes.

  • One thing to note is the relatively strong performance of the Reform party in both polling and real elections, despite them having little mainstream media coverage. That could be an important feature of the next general election, especially if Farage comes back.

    Although we assume Reform candidates mainly take votes mainly from the Tories, they also competes with us for protest and “I’m fed up with everyone” votes. They now have a supposed alliance with the SDP. If they were to stand as “Reform Alliance” or “SDP Alliance” that might signal an attempt to broaden their appeal and attract the more centrist socially conservative part of our support.

  • Peter Martin 10th Feb '23 - 6:39pm

    It’s worth remembering that Labour need a 12% swing to achieve an overall majority.
    The evidence of this poll suggests they won’t manage it.

  • Leekliberal 10th Feb '23 - 7:52pm

    Martin says that nationally we are not addressing key issues. How true! Silence from Sir Ed on Brexit continues to baffle and demoralise me. Campaigning hard for a less-punishing Brexit would be popular electorally and Labour are scared to do so. Is our Leader content to bump along in single figures in the polls? If not then let’s hear from him on an issue we can make our own!

  • West Lancs was a foregone conclusion. It was right to put in minimal resources and effort. The same goes for the other parties.

    Not a good basis for extrapolating general trends.

  • Nonconformistradical 11th Feb '23 - 7:25am

    If you are so concerned about our West Lancashire result – did you volunteer to go and help there?

  • Nonconformistradical 11th Feb '23 - 7:54am

    Should have added – and did you donate towards the campaign there?

  • Chris Moore 11th Feb '23 - 8:35am

    Martin, you have, not for the first time, completely misunderstood what I’ve said.

    I obviously didn’t mean it was a foregone conclusion that the LD vote would go down. I’m not Mystic Moggy. Please re-read what I said.

    I meant it was a by-election in a very safe Labour seat. None of the parties put in a shift of work or resources. Thank goodness we weren’t the exception.

  • Mel Borthwaite 11th Feb '23 - 9:31am

    My main concern about the Liberal Democrat performance is that the by election result was all about differential turnout – and Liberal Democrat voters appear to have been were motivated to vote than voters of other parties. To explain, voter turnout overall dropped from 72% to 31% so the number of votes each party won was far more influenced by its ability to motivate its previous voters to actually bother voting than its ability to attract new voters or prevent voters switching support to another party. Even if the Liberal Democrats lost 20% of its 2019 voters to other parties but had managed to motivate the remaining 80% to vote, our vote share would have doubled in the by election. Instead our voters dropped from 2560 to 918 – a bigger than average percentage fall. Bearing in mind that almost all of those 2560 were willing to vote Liberal Democrat in 2019 in full know that the party was almost certain not to win the seat then, the fact that only 918 were sufficiently motivated to vote Liberal Democrat is deeply worrying.

  • Mel Borthwaite 11th Feb '23 - 9:33am

    Apologies – 3rd line in above post should say ‘less’ where is currently says ‘were’.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 11th Feb '23 - 10:14am

    Mark says “wasn’t exactly one of the great Liberal Democrat by-election triumphs…” but if we didn’t put resources and effort in, as part of drumming the tories out of town it is what we expected and a triumph over tribalism. We can hope that labour will do the same for us. Could be a useless hope, but if we cannot have and give hope (and I am finding that difficult at times) we really are losing a battle.
    But I do hope that our candidate is duly praised and thanked for standing in a no hope seat. Takes guts to do that.

  • Suzanne Fletcher may well remember a ‘hopeless’ by-election in a strong Labour seat not far from Teesside. There was an unpopular failing Tory Government and a real effort was made including visits from the then Leader :

    Chester-le-Street by-election, 1 March, 1973.

    Labour Giles Radice 25,874 53.06% -18.54%
    Liberal George Booth Suggett 18,808 38.57% New
    Conservative Neil Balfour 4,092 8.39% -20.01%

    Majority 7,066 14.49% -28.71%
    Turnout 48,768 71.4%

    As the Welsh comedian, Max Boyce, used to say, “I know ‘cos I was there”.

  • I don’t disagree that current polling is poor. Is there anyone who does?

    Is there anyone on here who thinks we should put in resources in Labour dominated seats like this.

    If so, say so. We have an undeclared understanding with Labour not to waste limited resources in each others’ patches. Our performance in this by-election is indicative of that strategy. Labour have had very poor by-election results in the three by-elections where we were competitive.

    Is there anyone on here – Mel, Martin, David? – who’s against that understanding?

  • Paul Barker 11th Feb '23 - 3:01pm

    On the same day there were 5 Local Byelections, we stood in 4 & didn’t stand in the 5th because of a Local Pact. We made 2 gains out of the 4 we stood in. That sounds quite good to me & far more relevant.

    In the Polling, we are steady on an average of 9%. Thats in the context of a scene where Labour regularly take almost half the Vote. Normally our vote share goes up once a General Election is called.

  • Chris Moore 11th Feb '23 - 3:23pm

    And the two local gains were in target seats for Westminster.

  • David Franks 11th Feb '23 - 3:48pm

    We are seeing some excellent local Council results but we will not make major advances in House of Commons seats until we have a very strongly, very publicly promoted “Get closer to our EU neighbours” position. That’s the Party’s official policy so how can we make Sir Ed promote it? He is forcing us to seriously think about changing our leader or voting Green to get MPs who really do want to do something about it.

  • Chris Moore 11th Feb '23 - 8:40pm

    The Greens don’t have a single winnable seat. So voting Green won’t get you any MPs to promote closer relations with Europe.

  • @ Chris Moore – The lost deposit in this by election was a waste of £500 of people’s donations. The party should have either campaigned hard enough to retain it’s deposit or not fielded a candidate at all.

    Martin is also right that it is a mistake to over rely on tactical voting and targeting. It doesn’t come to the rescue when the national share of the vote is low as was seen in 2015.

  • Well, I agree with everything you say there. Good post.

    1. The positive from leadership’s focus on everyday issues is that we’ve won back support from liberal-minded Leave voters. We need their support to win Remain and Leave leaning seats. We should go on majoring on those issues.

    2. Polling suggests – sadly – that focusing on Europe won’t win us many votes. But I do think we should be pointing out the many failings of Brexit and arguing for closer relations with Europe. A strategic move for the future, but not alienating Leave voters.

    3. In the same way that we’ve won back some Leave voters, in general, we should be trying to (re)gain support in deprived areas and also with BAME voters. I think this is another way of expressing your concern with a shrinking number of fertile areas. BAME voters are one key to our progress in many seats, because as with Leave voters we come from a low base.

    4 My own feeling about 3 is that we have become a narrower party because of our fruitless focus on issues that get LD activists enthused i.e. Europe and PR. I too was in mourning for a long time after the Referendum.

    But we have to find a way of moving on and bringing in new support, otherwise we are doomed to be competitive in only well-heeled seats with high average educational attainment.

  • Peter Martin 12th Feb '23 - 11:29am

    @ Mark,

    You make a fair point in saying that there could be a Labour majority. However, a figure of 198 seems wildly optimistic given that Labour has slumped in Scotland since the 1997 landslide.

    We have seen that the voting figures in elections don’t match up with the 20% + leads we regularly see in opinion polls. So it’s one thing for a potential voter to say they’ll vote Labour, if asked by a pollster, it’s another to make the effort to actually do it.

    The morale in the Labour party is far from good with the split between the left and right factions being worse than I can ever remember. This isn’t much discussed in the mainstream media. I would say Starmer is making a big mistake if he thinks he can win an overall majority with a split party. He needs to make good on at least some of the promises he made to the membership, when he was campaigning for the leadership, to restore party unity. Those leaflets won’t deliver themselves!

    The Corbyn question is Islington North is a potential time bomb. This needs to be diffused and quickly too.

  • “Polling suggests – sadly – that focusing on Europe won’t win us many votes” –
    Which polling are you referring to?

    “we’ve won back some Leave voters” –
    You Gov polls suggest we have gained 1-2% among leave voters whilst losing 8-9% of remain voters. That is not a good trade off.

    “we have to find a way of moving on and bringing in new support” – What ideas do you suggest?

  • Chris Moore 12th Feb '23 - 9:01pm

    Hi Marco, to avoid misunderstanding, my previous post was a response to Martin.

    There are numerous polls showing Europe is a low priority for voters. The tiny percentage for whom it is decisive are likely to be already with us.

    I can’t make sense of your You Gov figures? If you look at our recent by-election victories, we attracted significant levels of Leave support. We need to do this to get over the line in Remain and Leave leaning seats.

    Bringing in new support: BAME voters, working class voters. We had significant working class support up to 2010. Coalition, then Bollocks to Brexit trashed all that.

    Do we want to be a party just for well-heeled, right on Remainers?

  • @ Chris Moore – The regular You Gov polls are on their site and give a breakdown of voting intention including based on vote in the 2016 ref. The most recent one has us on 11% of remain voters and 4% of leave voters. https://docs.cdn.yougov.com/523wfnrggo/TheTimes_VI_230201_W.pdf

    The one before that was 14% R 5% L and the average has been in between the two. Interestingly another You Gov poll had us on 9% of “Bregret” voters, so they are perhaps the section of leave voters we should target.

  • Chris Moore 13th Feb '23 - 2:14pm

    Thanks for the link, Marco.

    So we have headway with Leave Voters. From the pitiful and self-defeating near asterisk in 2019.

    No LD member can be happy with where we are in the polls; we also all agree that we need to be bolder about criticising Brexit and arguing for better relations with Europe.

    Unlike others on here, I simply don’t think this will be the magic ingredient to revive our popularity. What seems very attractive to LD members sadly is of little interest to the average voter.

    On a personal note, my extended family is 50% immigrant; the majority of them voted Leave, but also have voted LD in the past because they see LDs as open-minded and internationalist. I believe we are missing a trick in not going after Leave voters, BAME voters, the working class vote, council estates.

    We do have to target ruthlessly for the next GE; we don’t have huge resources, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying to widen our appeal beyond the well-educated and liberal middle-class.

  • @Chris Moore – I understand that in the 2019 GE we got approx 21% of the remain vote and 3% of the leave vote so I’m not sure where this “headway” is – if anything the slight uptick among leavers is caused by more people now thinking Brexit was a mistake.

    I also feel that it is a bit of a myth that the middle classes all voted remain and the working classes leave. This imagines the working class as older, white and English but among urban C2DE voters the picture was more complex.

  • Anthony Acton 14th Feb '23 - 8:57am

    The party does urgently need to get itself associated in the public mind with at least one issue that really matters to them. At present the only reason to vote Lib Dem in a GE would be to be get the Tories out in the relatively few constituencies where we are the only plausible alternative.

  • Chris Moore 15th Feb '23 - 4:24am

    Hi Marco,

    It certainly is a myth that all middle-class voters voted Remain! I can’t find anyone who’s claimed that on this thread.

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