Just as the General Election produced a mixed bag of results, so did this year’s council elections. Although overall we had a net loss of 135 seats and control of a number of councils, the outcome was far more complex.
The results in metropolitan and London councils saw a net loss of 52 and 77 seats respectively losing overall control of Richmond upon Thames, Liverpool, Rochdale and Sheffield in the process. However, in unitary councils and the English districts we lost just 5 and 1 seat respectively, and gained control of Burnley, Cheltenham and Winchester councils. These figures also hide the fact that we lost significant numbers of seats in councils where we were in joint or minority administrations where Labour where the main opposition, such as Brent, Camden, Islington, St. Helens and Warrington.
Apart from the places where we gained control, there have been a number of other stars in this election. Firstly, we gained two seats from scratch on Merton council, a council where we now hold the balance of power. We also retained our by-election gain in Kensington & Chelsea and gained one more councillor to keep Carol Caruana company in this Tory fiefdom.
Other positive news came from Sutton where we saw a massive increase of 11 seats to comfortably retain the council that has been Lib Dem run for more than 20 years. In London we also gained seats in Kingston upon Thames and Ealing. We have moved to being the largest party in both Colchester and Purbeck, where we already formed part of the administration and made good gains in a number of other councils where we are in control – Milton Keynes, Portsmouth, Bristol, Cambridge and Eastleigh. Other impressive increases in our tally of seats were in Calderdale, Brentwood (where one result was settled by drawing lots after a draw – we won!), Maidstone, Mole Valley, Southend-on-Sea, Stroud and Tunbridge Wells. Another piece of good news is that Dorothy Thornhill was comfortably re-elected Mayor of Watford, despite us failing to gain the parliamentary seat.
Although many Liberal Democrats will be disappointed with the results of both the council and general election overall, it is clear that there is no one explanation for the results. It certainly seems that in many areas where the main opposition is Labour, we struggled against a massive increase in Labour turnout. However, that does not explain how our vote held up well in other areas of Labour strength. ALDC wants to get as much feedback from campaigners across the country – both in successful and unsuccessful areas – and we will use this to help ensure that we do well in next year’s elections. Please do complete our survey to let us know how you did in your area, and to explain the reason why you think we got the results we did. We would also like to see examples of literature from across the country that we can use as good practice to save everyone reinventing the wheel.
Being in government is going to provide the party with new and unprecedented campaigning challenges. This is new territory for most party members (although we shouldn’t forget that we have been in government in Scotland and Wales too) and so we will be working out how best to campaign on this. ALDC will also be working with the Campaigns Department to make campaign literature available as soon as possible.