From zero to 67%: brilliant Lib Dem win in Watton-at-Stone

Six council by-elections this week. One a Liberal Democrat defence and one (thankfully, a different one) without a Lib Dem candidate. This though still leaves the Lib Dem candidate tally at three higher than the last time these wards were fought.

By a random quirk, four of the wards are ones which in years far gone by the Liberal Democrats won but where more recently the party has been weak for an extended period of time. That makes for a good set of contests to see how broad the party’s recovery is.

Bude, Cornwall

The Liberal Democrat defence this week, with David Parsons bidding to take over from Nigel Pearce. Which he did successfully:

Congratulations, David Parsons and the team.

Watton-at-Stone, East Hertfordshire

Sophie Bell stood for the Liberal Democrats, making her the first Liberal Democrat / Alliance party candidate in the ward since 1983. Good work Sophie and team changing that. And wow, what a result:

Here’s her key campaign message:

I have lived in Watton-at-Stone for twenty-two years, my entire life, and I really appreciate the tranquillity and sense of community in the village. I attended the village school and have fond memories of taking part in a wide variety of other activities in the village, such as the village pantomime, which is such a highlight of the village calendar.

I work as a researcher in planning, so I have a good understanding of the planning process. I am also well aware of environmental issues associated with development, which is important in a village like Watton-at-Stone, where we are blessed with such a wide variety of fauna and flora.

I have been a supporter of the Liberal Democrats for around ten years now, but I joined in 2015 during my first year at university, having had the opportunity to see just how much work the Liberal Democrats do for the community. I want Watton-at-Stone to benefit, as other places have done, from more effective and accessible elected representatives.

The most important aspect, for me, is to ensure that you feel comfortable to approach me with any problems or concerns you may have, or any suggestions for improvements which could be made within the village. I want my efforts to be dominated by the issues that matter to people from all walks of life, from across the village, so that I can best represent you. As a consequence, feel free to email me at any time on the above email address, and I shall get back to you as soon as possible. I am also available by telephone during the evenings. Again, my number is available above.

Most of all, I want to make our community a better place, making sure the most vulnerable are supported, and working hard for the future of our village.

The pattern of the Liberal Democrats gaining seats across England from the Conservatives is back. Which is promising news for next May.

Halewood South, Knowsley

Jenny McNeilis was the Lib Dem candidate, representing the party in a ward that hadn’t had one in the two previous contests on current boundaries. Further back, the party was able to win this ward – on different boundaries – pre-coalition.

Progress this time although a long way still to go towards winning here again:

Newton Regis and Warton, North Warwickshire

The one Liberal Democrat no-show. It is now 11 years since the party last put up a local election candidate in the ward, though only another four years since the party last had a councillor here.

Gotham, Rushcliffe

Jason Billin was the Lib Dem candidate in a ward which the party didn’t fight last time but which, on different boundaries, used to have a Lib Dem elected consistently until 2011.

Congratulations to Jason and the team on getting back in the game, and up above the Greens. One step forward, several more to go:

Gotham’s similarity in name to Batman’s Gotham City is no coincidence, as I blogged about late last year.

Bromborough, Wirral

Vicky Downie was the Liberal Democrat candidate in a ward the party won regularly in pre-coalition years. The party has fallen a long way since those days. But what I’ve heard of the efforts of the local team to rebuild the party locally is impressive – and that delivered a promising result this week:

Council by-election wrap-up

A dramatic gain and a solid hold make this look like a very good week for the Liberal Democrats when it comes to council by-elections. The broader details are promising too. In the battle to reestablish the Lib Dems as the third party of UK politics, the absence of any Ukip candidates, the presence of only one Green (and beaten by the Lib Dems) along with the continued electoral no-show of the plethora of new parties, all adds up to job done this week.

There is a but, however. The praiseworthy progress across the wards up for election this week still leaves the party a long way short of where it used to be many years back. This is definitely a recovery. It’s a recovery with a long way still to go.


These by-election results round-ups cover principal authority by-elections. See my post The danger in celebrating parish and town council wins for your own party for the reasons to avoid straying too often into covering town, parish or community council by-elections.

2 responses to “From zero to 67%: brilliant Lib Dem win in Watton-at-Stone”

  1. I was out campaigning for Sophie in Watton-at-Stone on the day and clearly this marvellous result is well-deserved: an excellent candidate and a lot of hard work, plus a supine all-Tory council. This sets us up well for the main elections next spring.

    It was clearly a major factor that Sophie, unlike the Tory, lived in the village and the number of people who greeted her as she walked around showed how well-known she was. Some of us also got a positive reaction when we went for food and a pint to the Bull. Labour did more than you’d expect for 2.9% and what was really encouraging was the WILLINGNESS to vote Lib Dem, even just in a district council election.

  2. The independents seem to be doing well. Not so good for Lab Con We seem to be improving but a long way to go. Are people getting tired of the big boys? Where we are concerned our coalition years did us nothing but harm for we where building up trust in us untill then. Then we let the voter/people down. Hopefully we can rise from the ashes as the other 2 parties make a mess of Brexit.

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