Political

Lib Dems prospering right across the country, but just how well is the party doing?

Ooooh, look at the swing on that as the 2018 local election results get off to a great start for the Liberal Democrats:

This is the ward where the Liberal Democrats snatched a dramatic win in a council by-election in February. Congratulations to the local team on building on that and being well and truly on the up:

Below is a smattering of the other early results as they’ve come in, but for the full analysis – the good, the bad and the indifferent – sign up for Lib Dem Newswire which will hit email inboxes in the next few days. What do the results mean for the future of the Liberal Democrats, whether the party is right to bet so heavily on Brexit and how did Vince Cable do in his first set of local elections as leader? That and more will be all in there for you to read.

Down south, the pattern of Liberal Democrat council by-election gains from the Conservatives in southern England looks to be continuing:

Likewise in non-by-elections too:

“Shock” news from Tower Hamlets: the elections haven’t been run as well as they should:

The pattern of results around England is likely to vary greatly, e.g. London versus southern England versus small town Midlands versus the north. So don’t read too much into the atypical slice of early results, but…

Promising noises from both south west London and Liverpool too:

[Later] Noises that have delivered results:

Five Lib Dem gains in Merton included Paul Kohler whose imaginative campaigning to save a local police station I covered at the start of the year:

Big gains also in Hull. Not quite enough to win control of the council this year but with these sorts of gains looking very promising for the next round of election by thirds:

Also a good set of small gains here and there, such as getting a seat back on the council in Rushmoor by just 33 votes and beating one Mr. Gladstone:

Plus holds:

And a result that symbolises how disappointing things are looking for Labour:

Oh and:

Plus some gains that are particularly pleasing for me to see given where so much of my time was spent as campaign manager in the 1990s and 2000s:

Quick summary of the results so far from the Lib Dem perspective: lots of great pieces of news, including some remarkable wins. A good spread of gains too both for larger council groups and small ones. Not yet clear, however, if overall vote share* will be up on last year. Definitely up on four years ago, but may not be up on last year and certainly still well below the pre-coalition years figures.

The recovery there has been fairly broadly based:

Unlike signs in the last two years, this time it doesn’t look like the Lib Dems are doing better in Remain areas:

John Curtice has told the BBC:

Liberal Democrat support has increased on average by three points.

However, this represents no more than a modest improvement on the poor 2014 result that the party was trying to defend.

Despite being the only significant party in England that opposes Brexit, the Liberal Democrats did not perform noticeably better in Remain voting areas.

Rather, the party’s best performances seem to have been reserved for where the party was already relatively strong locally.

If that picture turns out to be correct when all the results are in (and eyeballing seat gains, Lib Dems do seem to be doing disproportionately well in Conservative Remain-voting areas), then it will make 2018 the mirror of 2017 for the Lib Dems. Then disappointing headline seat change numbers masked a strong vote share improvement. This time round it may well be that good headline seat and council control numbers mask a stalling on vote share – and stalling when you’re still a long way down from your best is not good.

So a step forward with many more yet needed as illustrated by the number of smaller local parties who look to be coming away from these elections with no gains and a fair chunk of the councils remaining on zero Lib Dems.

The gap in the political firmament is still very much there for the Liberal Democrats to fill, and others are not filling it:

Parliamentary by-elections have traditionally been one way for the Liberal Democrats to secure such growths spurts. Ironically, success in Sheffield probably makes the possible one there less likely:

* The national vote share calculations are adjusted to allow for which wards are up each year, making them comparable across years.

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