On the 98th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, it was the Conservative Party’s by-election teams that hit an iceberg last Thursday. Of the five seats they were defending, we are pleased to report four losses – three of which came our way as did a very close second in the Tories’ only successful defence.
Three of the five by-elections reported to ALDC this week centred on Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, with our candidate Dave Patrick running for Wisbech Town Council, Fenland District Council, and Cambridgeshire County Council at the same time. The openings on the two principal councils were a result of the death of the incumbent Conservative Councillor. Of the three, most significant was the contest for the Wisbech Kirkland ward of Fenland District Council. The Lib Dem campaign in this relatively urban ward in Fenland produced three main by-election leaflets, in a variety of colour and formats, and made good use of EARS to create an effective squeeze message for ‘soft’ Conservatives. The biggest issue in the local area was the controversial Fenland DC plan to relocate a taxi rank and, as Chair of a local Hackney Carriage drivers’ association, Dave was well-placed to get to grips with the matter and successfully reinforce the image of Liberal Democrats as dedicated champions of local issues. Despite immigration being a key topic on the doorstep, a UKIP campaign grown complacent after their second-place at County level last time around, came fourth. Dave Patrick took the first Liberal Democrat seat on Fenland DC with over 50% of the vote, with the Tory vote collapsing by 74% on May 2007! Congratulations to the Fenland Lib Dems on their historic victory, and the candidate’s further election to Wisbech Town Council. Unfortunately, despite a 20% surge in the Lib Dem vote, Dave wasn’t able to make it three out of three – with UKIP folding 15% of their previous vote, most likely back to the Conservatives, the Tories held on by just over 30 votes to prevent a complete whitewash.
In the remaining non-principal by-elections, Lib Dem Colin Gerald Wright took 40% of the vote to become Parish Councillor in the South Ward of Great Cornard in South Suffolk. Finally, an Independent gained a seat on Sudbury Town Council that was previously Conservative.