Winning Candidate John Griffin at the Site of his Winning Opposition to a New Housing Development
Whilst June 3rd was a good day for by-election watchers this year, it suffers from a relative lack of whimsy in its anniversary celebrations. One interesting tidbit however is that it was 54 years since British Railways renamed their ‘Third Class’ carriages to ‘Second Class’, arguably a greater victory for mass social mobility than has been achieved at any point since! In by-election terms there were three principal council contests fought on Thursday, we were defending two in St Albans and pushing for a win in rural South Oxfordshire.
The Crowmarsh ward of South Oxfordshire District Council is safely ensconced in the Conservative stronghold of Henley, a famous stomping ground for big Tory beasts past and present – Baron Heseltine and Boris Johnson – and a constituency that celebrates an unbroken century of Conservative representation at Westminster in December this year. Successful candidate John Griffin is a well-known figure in the area, having served as councillor for Crowmarsh before in the mid-late 1990s and currently serving as leader of the Crowmarsh Parish Council. The Lib Dem campaign picked up a wealth of canvass data, pounding the streets with the assistance of the East Oxfordshire Lib Dems, and gained a positive response to their popular opposition to a proposed housing development in Crowmarsh itself. In national terms, the coalition also went over well on the doorstep – with a large number of voters giving the Liberal Democrats plaudits for taking a brave step in the national interest.
The remaining principal council results were a pair of successful defences in the St Albans area. A notable Conservative stronghold throughout its electoral history, one point interest can be found in the work of John Bamford Slack M.P., the Liberal Member of Parliament for St Albans between 1904 and 1906. On May 12 1905, Slack gave his place on the Private Members Bill ballot to a motion to introduce full voting rights for women. Some years ahead of the times, the Womens Enfranchisement Bill was shamefully filibustered by anti-suffragist Members drawing out a prolonged discussion of the Lighting of Vehicles Bill that preceded it on the order paper. Back in the modern day, at County Council level Lib Dem Martin Frearson was returned to represent the St Albans South division on Hertfordshire CC, keeping the Lib Dem opposition numbers at 16 County Councillors to the Tories’ 55. The by-election for the Ashley ward on St Albans District Council was an exciting affair – we were defending a council majority of just two seats – but with 49.5% of the popular vote, the St Albans Lib Dem team and new Councillor Andy Grant safely retained their seat.
A quick word on the best of the rest, we received reports of a handsome Liberal Democrat gain in the Gannel Ward of Newquay Town Council. A straight head-to-head with the defending Conservatives saw our man David Sleeman elected to council with roughly 60% of the vote. The next by-elections we currently have on the books are three on the 17th June. Congratulations to all this week’s winning teams, and the very best of luck to all of our campaigners in the field.
ALDC By-Elections Team