After last week’s slow start to the month, February’s electoral schedule gathered pace with a total of seven principal council by-elections and a pair of Town Council results reported to ALDC this week. Four of the seven were retained by their incumbent parties, and of the remaining three Labour and the Tories exchanged two, with the final being a Conservative gain at the expense of an Independent.
The pick of the results was our successful defence of Aylesbury Central ward of Aylesbury Vale District Council, in the Buckinghamshire constituency of Aylesbury. The campaign of Graham Webster polled more than 50% of the popular vote – a 20% majority over the Tories, for whom this ward was an important local target. A wide variety of Literature, and growing use of telephone canvassing and election software, add to the legacy benefits of a highly successful campaign. The Tories’ transparent attacks on the previous incumbent backfired on the doorstep, as their lurid allegations of corruption were exposed for what they were and depressed the Conservative vote by a further 6%.
Related to the Aylesbury Central defence was the valiant Lib Dem effort in Aylesbury’s Luffield Abbey Ward. With few resources on the ground, the campaign of Ian Metherell placed just twenty votes behind a ‘kitchen sink’ UKIP campaign featuring party leader, and now PPC for the area, Nigel Farage. A complacent Tory effort still succeeded in holding this very rural Buckingham ward.
The Labour hold in Easington Ward of Durham County Council was no great surprise, our emphasis in this ward being the development of a viable party organisation. With valuable assistance from Easington PPC Tara Saville, the Harrison campaign made the most of limited resources to peg a respectable third place in an area with historically minimal Liberal Democrat activity.
In Town Council terms Labour held in London Colney, despite some high-quality artwork from LD candidate Vibs Nazeri.
Two wards in Telford and Wrekin, College and The Nedge, went without Lib Dem candidates yesterday. We have now failed to stand a candidate in three out of eighteen by-elections in 2010. If we had failed to stand a similar number of PPCs at the 2005 election, then a total of 109 seats would have been completely uncontested. The ALDC’s advice on this will never change: always, always, always stand a candidate.