Good start for the Liberal Democrats to this week’s five council by-elections with a gain from Ukip:
Congratulations to Nathan Billings and the team.
That makes I reckon five Ukip losses in council by-elections in Cornwall since 2013. Which is very much the opposite of what you’d expect from a party putting down solid geographic roots in an area of the sort which can lead to sustained success in first past the post general elections.
By contrast, the impressive run of Liberal Democrat by-election results in the county raises reasonable hopes that the loss of all the party’s Parliamentary seats in the areas was a low point rather than a prelude to complete collapse.
Next up another poor result for both Ukip and Labour, though this time it was the Tories benefitting:
This Conservative gain is particularly notable as the council ward is in Stockton South – a typical Labour/Tory marginal Parliamentary seat of just the sort Labour needs to take to win a general election.
Kinson North had been a Lib Dem ward until 2011, when the party slumped to third, behind Tories and Labour. In 2015 the party finished behind Ukip and Greens too without even a full set of candidates for the ward. So to still be fourth on single digits shows how much more there is to do for the party to get back to pre-2010 levels of strength (let alone undoing the decline in the years before 2010).
These two by-elections were caused by the death of the same person, John Wilson, who had been both a borough and a county councillor in the area. They fall within the Christchurch constituency, site many years back of a famous Liberal Democrat by-election victory with Diana Maddock but more recently the party has been very weak in the area with no candidates in the previous borough or country council elections. Even way back in 2005 the Lib Dems finished a very distant second here behind the Tories in the borough council elections.
Good news that the party contested both seats. But again, these results do also show the scale of the recovery still needed – the party’s role as the main challenger to the Tories in parts of the country like this (however weak or strong that challenge might be) is still some way off.
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