How are the local elections going for the Lib Dems? (UPDATED)

Still lots more results to come, but now that the rush of headlines has slowed, what to make of the results so far?

As of Saturday morning, the results look pretty good.

Before getting into that, it’s important to recognise that’s not the same as universally good. There are, for example, two wards I campaigned in this time around which we lost out on by very small margins. Defeats like those, or losing your seat while others are gaining those on the same council, are in some ways made all the worse by most other people around you celebrating. I hope though that our overall progress means those nursing disappointment this weekend can also take some consolation from the fact that our continued progress means, if they decide to stand again, better times are coming in their ward too.

There’s lots of fun detail in the results, including:

Overall, the results are pretty good for the Liberal Democrats. Our net gains are healthy, and we won more council seats than the Conservatives – for the first time since 1996.

Conservative vs Lib Dem local election seat tally 2024

We are certainly going to end up with our longest run of winning rounds of local elections since the 1990s, beating our previous winning streak in Charles Kennedy‘s time.

The growth in our number of councillors, with the extra profile and resources they bring, are a big part of the growth of our local campaigning strength across the country in this Parliament. Our total number of councillors this Parliament – primarily May elections but also council by-elections and switches – will have grown by somewhere between a third and a half. That’s a big, sustained change.

Where those gains have come from is also a good mix: lots of very strong performances in areas where we’ve got Parliamentary hopes, but also quite a few small council groups growing.

For places up against Labour, it’s always much tougher when Labour isn’t in 10 Downing Street, so this year (most likely) was the final year before it gets easier to win against them. Against that, lots of Labour facing areas made helpful progress to be in a promising position ahead of the big opportunities to come.

All of which adds up to gains across the country as The Guardian has plotted:

Lib Dem gains in 2024 local elections mapped by The Guardian

One of the results that got the most cheers from activists around the country, especially among Liberal Democrats who are listeners to the Lib Dem Podcast, is the result in Preston: the small team there had quite a bumpy few years, but this week, oh my… 5 gains, overtaking the Conservatives, becoming the official opposition on the council for the first time this century.

They quite rightly appear to be quite happy about it…

Our vote share being up an average of 5% in the PCC elections so far also shows something promising about our ‘baseline’ support growing as generally in PCC contests they are over so wide an area that we don’t manage the sort of intensive ground campaigning we do to win a target ward. They are therefore a handy sense of our overall support, which intense targeted activity can build on. So seeing that baseline go up is good news.

And of course, there was a photo stunt about Conservatives, dinosaurs and extinction after the Conservatives won no councillors at all in places such as Woking and Cheltenham:

Ed Davey and an inflatable dinosaur celebrate the 2024 May elections

Followed by the cleaning up after the dinosaurs:


A hat-trick of good news for Lib Dems came through on Saturday afternoon:

1. Confirmed: Lib Dems win more council seats that Conservatives, for first time in nearly 30 years. (If only the anti-Sunak plotters had made ‘at least beat the Lib Dems’ as their yardstick for the PM…) That Lib Dem vs Conservative race has been close over the last couple of days, but one reason for us ending up ahead was the late result from Warrington where the Lib Dem group overtook the Conservatives, gaining 4 seats as they lost 10.

2. Despite switch to first past the post for London Mayor, Rob Blackie increased Lib Dem vote and moved us to third. (And the Conservatives were right about not winning.)

3. Gareth Roberts becomes first ever winner of a GLA constituency seat who isn’t Conservative or Labour. Oh, he’s a Lib Dem 🙂


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2 responses to “How are the local elections going for the Lib Dems? (UPDATED)”

  1. Commiserations to Rob Blackie; because we were so successful in getting our first Constituency seat on the London Assembly, that meant that we only got one List seat which went to Hina Bokhari and Rob who was second on our Assembly list lost out. Oh, the vagaries of PR.

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