Cheer number one: the proportion of seats being contested by the Liberal Democrats in this May’s local elections is up significantly from four years ago. In 2015, the Lib Dems fought 46% of the seats. This time around it is up to 53%.
What’s more that rise of seven percentage points is better than Labour, up two (to 77%), the Greens, down eight (to 30%) or Ukip, down twenty-eight (to 16%). It also beats the Conservatives, although as they were at 93% last time, their three point rise is getting close to as large as it practically can be.
Cheer number two: the strength of the Liberal Democrat presence in these elections puts the party clearly as the third party. Greens, Ukip, Women’s Equality Party – even all added up together, these parties between them they have fewer candidates than the Liberal Democrats.
But no cheer number three. Because even up seven points to 53%, the Liberal Democrat candidate spread is still down on the 59% achieved in 2011, let alone the near two-thirds in 2007.As with the council candidate figures last year, this year’s increase is both good and an illustration of how much further there is to go. London last year, for example, saw a welcome increase in the Liberal Democrat candidate coverage and yet – despite the party’s membership in London being comfortably at a record high – the coverage was a good way short of what the party has achieved in its best years.
What’s more, coverage isn’t simply a passive reflection of the political weather. As the Conservatives have shown with their big increases in coverage in the last few years, a bit of determined leadership and a lot of persistence can make a huge difference.
There’s a lesson there for the Liberal Democrats given how crucial our local government base is to our future recovery and successes.
Thanks to Robert Hayward for the figures used in this post. Eagle-eyed readers may notice some are slightly different from the Democracy Club’s data quoted by me previously. The overall patterns, however, are consistent, the variations between different analyses notwithstanding. Thrasher and Rallings will, later in the year, have the definitive complete data.