Victories all over the country and Conservatives pushed into third (LDN #184)

Liberal Democrat Newswire #184 came out last week, looking at how the Lib Dems did in the local elections, lessons from tactical voting and more.

You can now read it in full below, but if you’d like the convenience of getting it direct by email in future just sign up for it here.

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No surprise that this time’s edition is mainly about the local elections. The great Lib Dem results were only possible thanks to the dedication of so many volunteers and staff. Thank you to everyone who took part – and for pulling off an historic second place in seats, ahead of the Conservatives.

Got your own feedback on what did or didn’t work in these elections? Do hit reply and let me know.

A reminder that if you haven’t had a chance to read the previous edition of Lib Dem Newswire it is online here: What does a successful general election look like?

Happy reading,


P.S. For more news in-between editions, there is my new WhatsApp group for news about the Lib Dems. It’s broadcast only and people in it get about five sets of messages a week with the latest news about the party, by-election results, and the like. It’s a free service and all members and supporters are very welcome to join. You can sign up here.

Ian Hislop’s verdict on the Lib Dem local election performance

How bad were the local elections for the Conservatives?

Tactical voting hurts Conservatives

Plenty more on the local election results to come, but there’s one nugget in the numbers worth pulling out for special attention first.

It’s that, as John Curtice has pointed out, anti-Conservative tactical voting was prevalent this May. It matched last May and was, he said, at the sort of levels seen in 1996, the year before the Conservatives crashed, Labour won and the Lib Dems soared in the 1997 general election.

Here’s the data from Peter Kellner’s blog:

Data table from May 2024 lcoal elections

That’s a very promising sign for the coming general election.

But… while tactical voting may be running at historically very promising levels, that final column – Labour +3 – shows how much scope there is to secure even more tactical votes in Lib Dem / Conservative contests.

There may be more bar charts between now and polling day…

Success, all across the country

Here’s my latest report for Liberal Democrat members and supporters. These reports also appear on the party website.

Sustained, long-term growth

Last time I posed the question, “what does a successful general election look like?”. Since then we have certainly seen what a successful set of local elections looks like, including the fun of defeating Michael Gove’s election agent and getting David Cameron a Liberal Democrat councillor.

Before getting more into that, it is important to recognise success is never universal. Missing out while others are winning can be tough. I hope though that our overall progress means those nursing disappointment can also take consolation from the fact that our continued progress means, if they decide to stand again, better times are coming in their ward too.

Most dramatic of our successes was the big picture: winning more seats than the Conservatives for the first time in nearly 30 years, pushing the party of government into third. The gains this year also extended our run of net gains in May elections to the longest run since the 1990s.

Over this Parliament as a whole, our average national equivalent vote share in local elections was the best in a Parliament since before 2010.

Our increased candidate numbers and record levels of canvassing all came off when the voters were counted.

As The Guardian put it:

In winning more councillors than the Tories for the first time since 1996, the Lib Dems enjoyed a stellar night.

There has been a big rebuilding task for the party at all levels, and that is just the sort of sustained progress we need to return to previous heights – and exceed them. We already have more Lib Dem majority councils than before the 2010 general election – and added another two this time around.

Overall, across this Parliamentary cycle, we now know we have topped the table for seat gains in May elections:

  • Lib Dem: +768

  • Labour: +545

  • Green: +480

  • Conservative: -1,783

Importantly, that growth has come right across the country too – in Scotland, in Wales and right across England too.

The breadth of our growth was also shown in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. It is always harder for us to do well in these as they stretch our resources thin across a wide area. But overall our vote share was up 3%, showing a favourable national trend on which our targeting efforts can then build.

That meant we achieved the golden double of wins in the council elections: huge wins in the areas where we hope to win at the next Westminster election, and also many smaller council groups growing too.

Places such as Warrington, one of the last results to come in and which cemented our second place nationally with four gains, overtaking the Conservatives and becoming the official opposition on the council.

Or places such as Dudley, where we lost out on winning a seat by just 21 votes last year – and this year the team bounced back to gain three seats. A brilliant result for them – and an inspiration for anyone else who missed out this time around.

Andrew Stunell

Councillor, MP, minister, peer, Andrew’s recent death has been met with tributes all across the party. His dedication to his constituency and to the party more widely helped so many, and always made working with him a pleasure.

A lovely and kind man, Andrew achieved high political office but was always considerate and modest. “Always stay behind to put back the chairs” was his self-effacing advice that was the measure of his warmth and humility.

Many condolences to his family and friends.

The amazing Kathleen

Kathleen wearing a rosette

Results like those are only possible thanks to the kind work of so many staff and volunteers. Stars such as Kathleen from Southampton, who has just retired from delivering leaflets – after 70 (!) years of visiting letterboxes with Focus in hand.

Thank you Kathleen!

And well done to the whole Southampton team, who held one seat and took a second, from third place, off Labour.

Federal Board: 20th May

Later this month the Federal Board will be meeting, with one of the main items on our agenda being reviewing options for our autumn conference and what contingency plans make the most sense given the possible clash between conference and a general election. Thank you to everyone who has fed in their views on this, and once a decision is made, we will let members know as soon as possible.

We will also be looking at the review of our last internal elections, carried out by Nick Manners, and in particular deciding whether to put any rules changes to conference ahead of the next elections in late 2025.

We will also be looking at plans related to the general election, the budget and dealing with various internal party matters.

Details of all we decide next time.

Congratulations to…

Over April, the local parties who have recruited the most members locally in Scotland, Wales and England are:

  • North Edinburgh, East & Leith

  • Brecon, Radnor and Cwm Taw, tied with Swansea and Gower

  • Mole Valley – where we kept control of the council, increasing our majority and reducing the Conservatives to zero seats

Thanks and congratulations to those teams and also to Winchester, who topped the table for the local party that has spoken with the highest proportion of its members in the last month. No coincidence that they also had strong local election results.

This sort of grassroots membership engagement is crucial to successful local parties and winning election campaigns.

Do you have questions on any of this report, or other Lib Dem matters? Then please drop me a line on president@libdems.org.uk. Do also get in touch if you would like to invite me to do a Zoom call with your local party or party body.

PODCAST: How did the May 2024 elections go for the Lib Dems?

The latest episode of Never Mind The Bar Charts is another joint venture with The Lib Dem Pod, taking a look at the 2024 local elections.

Take a listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or the web.

🎧Find all the episodes of Never Mind The Bar Charts here. You can sign up for a dedicated email notification each time a new episode appears here.

NHS using thousands of buildings older than itself: Lib Dems in the news

On the NHS and social care:

On sewage and water companies:

On housing:

On the environment:

On other topics:

  • Sometimes one word is all you need: Munira Wilson’s pithy response to the government’s Ofsted plans.

  • Victims paying thousands for transcripts of their own court cases: Sarah Olney in The Times and at PMQs, highlighting a case where a child rape victim was quoted over £6,500 for a trial transcript.

And in other news…

What’s MRP all about?

MRP polls and their seat projections dominate political news headlines, but why are some of their figures so different, and who is likely to be right? Take a deep dive with my explainer.

The public wants to hear about potholes

In case you missed them first time, here is a selection of posts from my websites since last time:

And the polls say… talk about potholes in your political leaflets.

Are Conservative supporting newspapers going to switch to follow their readers?

Conservatives less likely to be planning to watch general election results.

Tobacco and Vapes Bill: how Lib Dem MPs voted.

The presentational double-point: is there a more stylish Lib Dem pointer than Josh Babarinde?

What the polls are saying

Latest general election voting intention polls

To give the latest figures some context, here’s an up-to-date poll tracker graph:

Voting intentions graph from ElectionMapsUK

Finally, here are the latest figures from Ipsos on which issues matter most to voters:

Ipsos issues index polling

Reality arrives: how did the polls and projections do?

When reality arrived in the form of thousands of election results at the start of this month, how did the polls and other projections fare? Find out in my other regular newsletter, The Week in Polls.

Council by-elections round-up

Aside from the clutch of by-elections on the big local election polling day itself, including the first seat to change hands being a Lib Dem gain, it’s been a quiet few weeks on the by-election front. What contests there have been featured a rare Conservative gain, a near miss for the Lib Dems in a ward we didn’t previously contest and the new May-May cycle kicked off with a Labour gain.

These contests bring the running tally of seat changes since the last May elections to Labour +1, Conservative -1 and everyone else unchanged.

For more details, see my local by-elections scorecard here.

To get the full council by-election results every week, sign up for my blog posts digest and to be prepared for a council by-election in your patch, see my 7-step guide to getting ready in advance.

Can you help?

Liberal Democrat Newswire is provided for free but isn’t free to run. Thank you so much to all the kind readers who donate to help cover its costs. It’s quick and easy to sign up for a small regular donation with your debit card using GoCardless:

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Thank you! (Other donation options, including by PayPal or cheque, are here.)

Latest Parliamentary selections

Westminster Parliament selections made public since last time include Blaenau Gwent and Rhymney: Jackie Charlton, Bracknell: Katie Mansfield, Broadland and Fakenham: Leyla Hannbeck, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich: Brett Mickelburgh, Doncaster North: Jonathan Harston, Ealing North: Craig O’Donnell, Edinburgh North and Leith: Mike Andersen, Folkestone and Hythe: Larry Ngan, North East Somerset and Hanham: Dine Romero, Sleaford and North Hykeham: Matthew Winnington, Swindon South: Matt McCabe and York Central: Alan Page.

David Green has also been selected for the Scottish Parliamentary constituency of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.

See all the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) selected and announced so far here. If you’ve spotted a selection I’ve missed and which is public, by all means hit reply and let me know.

And finally…

Tim Farron has been getting ideas for the next Lib Dem photo stunt. Long may they stay on the drawing board.

If you enjoyed this newsletter, why not forward it to a friend or let them know they can sign-up here for future editions?

Thank you and best wishes,


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