Less exciting but more revealing by-election results for the Lib Dems

After last week’s satisfying post-referendum by-election seat gain, this week was rather more mundane. More mundane, but perhaps also more insightful into the challenge the Liberal Democrats face and the dangers of premature Stakhanovite optimism.

For this week we saw one contest with no Lib Dem candidate and two with Lib Dem vote increases, taking the party in those wards from a very distant placing to a still pretty distant placing.

Up by 4% in both of those wards fits the point Jonathan Calder made well about how the party needs more good third places – i.e. showing that it is not just withering away outside areas of strength but actually able to start pulling in votes and progress once more in areas which are not the party’s strongest.

But still, it’s one ward with no Lib Dem and no wards with a winning Lib Dem. And, if past weeks are anything to go by, this post will generate much less interest than one about the party gaining a seat.

The risk with that, of course, is that only being interested in victories means a overly rose-tinted view of how things are going rather than a realistic one – and hence for example the notable paucity of chatter amongst Lib Dems about how to turn the surge in new members into a higher rate of contesting by-elections, even though standing more local candidates is crucial to the party’s recovery. More attention to contests without Lib Dem candidates would result in more attention to standing more candidates.

Here meanwhile are the details of those contests:

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