There were four principal council elections held on the 29th January. Labour held one seat and lost two to the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems held one seat. Of three Town and Parish Council results reported to ALDC the Lib Dems gained two from Independents and one from the Tories.
In Newcastle’s Fenham ward we were in third place before we won it in 2006. In 2007 we lost by 4. In 2008 we won by 303. Our victory last night by 24 votes, bringing our group in Newcastle to 50, the largest in the country was just as sweet seeing of both Labour and a strong BNP challenge. Newcastle’s elections are very different from many. 46% of the electorate across the city have postal votes. In this by-election 2963 postal votes were issued and 1979 returned – 64% of the votes cast in the by-election. Inevitably a lot of emphasis was put on work with this self-selecting group of the electorate.
In the Valentine Ward of the London Borough of Redbridge we made another stunning gain. The key to success was identifying and running with the strong local issues we identified; 1. The Tory closure of a local swimming pool 2. The distance kids were being forced to travel due to a lack of school places and 3. The council attempting to gag our candidate when he tried to raise the issue.
Didsbury West Ward is not inner-city Manchester and contains the multi-million pound mansions of several Labour MP’s – yes that affluent. It had been one of the Tories safest wards in the City prior to their demise in the 1980’s, with Tory party membership in the ward over a 1,000. In last Thursday’s by-election following the tragic death of North West Campaigns Officer Cllr Neil Trafford the Tory vote was squeezed to just 13% and the Lib Dem vote topped 50%. This is one of seven wards in John Leech’s Manchester Withington increasingly less marginal parliamentary constituency. The campaign, full of bells and whistles, produced a healthy swing to the Lib Dems that bodes well for the general election. Winning six out of the seven by-elections last Thursday is a great start to the new year!