There were eleven principal council by-elections held on 1st October. Labour held four seats, the Tories two and the Lib Dems one. The Lib Dems took one seat off the Tories and two off independents. Labour gained one seat off an Independent in Scotland. There were no Parish and Town council elections reported to ALDC.
The Independent today quoted the press association “The post-conference “Brown bounce” failed to show in the latest council by-elections, although the Tories were hit by a huge surge to the Liberal Democrats.” This may be true looking at their narrow analysis of 5 three-way by-elections. I think perhaps a more important figure, however, is that we have made 15 net gains in by-elections in the year to date whilst the Tories have lost 18.
Broadlands is one of those councils that only anoraks and East Anglians could probably place. It’s on the outskirts of Norwich and includes much of the Norfolk Broads. In the Wroxham ward by-election we stood a 19 year old local boy, Ben McGilvray, a 2nd year History student at York University who increased our vote by a stunning 58%. His victory makes him the youngest Liberal Democrat Councillor on a principal council that ALDC is aware of (tell us if we’re wrong!). A lacklustre Tory campaign could not cope with a vibrant campaign focusing on the big local issues; the proposed EcoTown and the Norfolk Hub.
In Walsingham Ward, of pilgrimage fame, we did not have issues as strong as those in Wroxham but it does fall within Norman Lamb’s parliamentary constituency. In May we won the County seat and our campaign built on this to produce a 32% increase in the vote.
Our third gain of the day was in Droitwich South West Ward of Wychavon District council in Wocestershire. Here we started with a survey and identified the issue of the future of the Brine Bath, a key part of Droitwich’s heritage and identity threatened by the Tories with closure.
Our candidate took the issue to heart and got coverage on the issue in the local media as well as our own literature. Our campaign team could hardly believe their luck when the Tory decision to finally close the Bath was published on the front page of the local free paper on the day before the election. We, of course, included it in our eve of poll and good morning leaflets. A good day for Liberal Democrats.