A pause in the run of good Lib Dem by-election results

(Labour were elected unopposed last time in this ward.)

As I wrote before:

A loyal core vote comes in part from people getting the habit of repeatedly voting for the Liberal Democrats – and that requires repeatedly giving them the chance to do so.

Not having a candidate means we’re refusing to let voters be loyal repeat supporters of us and instead forcing them to turn elsewhere – to another party or to apathy. That’s not the way to build up in weak, middling or strong areas.

By-elections are also a great opportunity to give new people the chance to learn how to do things, such as being an agent for the very first time. If your local party is so over-flowing with experienced agents that you don’t need any more this doesn’t matter much… but for the rest of us in places where willing agents are often in short supply and over-worked, by-elections in seats we’re not campaigning hard to win give a great opportunity for someone new to learn a little bit more about what’s involved.

The trick, of course, is not to say “we’re too busy to do this” but instead to say “it’s just because we’re so busy we should use this chance to help build a bigger team”.


Note: there are of course some very rare occasions when not standing a candidate is understandable in a small local party. My points are general ones which apply nearly all the time, but not quite in every single case over the years.


I agree with Mark's comments about fighting seats. However, the work done brings little reward if the few activists sigh with relief when the campaign is over and never get round to chasing up the polling data definites. I'm afraid that's quite common. Also some campaigns in hopeless wards are fought with a big effort to get a leaflet out and no canvassing at all or very little. In all likelihood non-one reveals themselves to be a supporter in response to the leaflet and so no data is collected. If we're fighting at all, we really should not be satisfied with either of these situations.


Absolutely. I think most local parties do this unprompted except for those that see "flying the flag" and getting a few percent more votes without coming near to winning as ends in themselves. It's really a matter of thinking strategically: "Where do we want to be in 5/10 years' time and how can we get there?"


We held our Town Council seat of Gainsborough East against the UKIP PPC from last year who finished above us in May 2015.

Doris Turrell Lib Dem 305 (57.4%)

John Saxon UKIP 226 (42.6%)

Turnout 10.2% Lib Dem Hold

Chris Nelson
Chris Nelson

Thanks for posting this Mark. I was the agent in the Kettering byelection. These days I actually live in the neighbouring constituency of Wellingborough, where I was PPC in 2015, but took it on as we are a two constituency local party.

We fought a pretty minimal campaign in this area, which hadnt been previously contested at the Borough Council level since 1995, and got a broadly similar result to what we had obtained in this area in the General Election as well as broadly comparable to the result we got in the 2013 County Council election (which was then a four cornered fight without competition from the Greens). Our local party declined somewhat over coalition, and didn't stand any candidates at all in the 2015 borough council elections, but with an influx of new members since May we were determined to stand again even though it wasn't our strongest area.

We are glad that we stood as we got an opportunity to engage new members in the electoral process and hopefully enthuse them, flushed out some new volunteers as well as gainings some useful data in an area we've never seriously contested. Our vote share won't set any flames alight (this time!) but there were some definite organisational positives from this which we will use to help us renergise the Party in Kettering. Onwards and upwards!

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