With nine principal council by-elections taking place on St Swithin’s day this year, we can only hope our electoral prospects don’t stay the same for the next forty days! Of the two we were defending, we lost one, and we failed to pick up any seats elsewhere. The Conservatives held steady, successfully defending four out of five; on Surrey Country Council (Worplesdon division); Great Marlow ward of Wycombe District; Wheatley ward on Rochford D.C.; and Pirbright in Guildford. The one seat lost by the Tories on the 15th, Bloxwich West ward of Walsall M.B.C., was one of a trio of Labour gains. They also took the Castle seat on Leicester City Council from the Greens and, disappointingly, the Riversway seat in Preston C.C. from our local Lib Dems. In Wales, Llais Gwynedd, or Voice of Gwynedd for the Anglophones amongst us, held the Diffwys and Maenofferon seat on Gwynedd against a Plaid Cymru challenge, a contest in which there was no Liberal Democrat candidate.
With a by-election clutch as dreary as the recent weather, we’ve saved the best ‘til last in the form of our successful defence of the Corfe Mullen South seat on East Dorset District Council. Nestled in the Mid-Dorset and North Poole constituency of our own Annette Brooke, the ward itself has been a Lib Dem stronghold for the past seventeen years. With weekly Focus and election literature, in addition to Definite and Probable-targeted letters, we capitalised on local issues of the day, particularly wheelie-bin allocations and a controversial nearby landfill site, to reinforce our message of community politics. A legacy benefit of approximately 50% new canvass data across the ward and a smooth Postal Vote operation combined to defeat a negative Tory campaign and a lacklustre UKIP effort. Congratulations to Councillor Philip Harknett, and our hard-working team in East Dorset.
Out in the towns, we had some good news in the form of a hold and a gain on Barnstaple Town Council, unfortunately counterbalanced by a pair of losses on Bradfield Parish Council in Sheffield. We also lost a Town Councillor in Knaresborough, near Harrogate, to the Tories, making it a pretty torrid time for Liberal Democrats at all local government levels. There are another nine principals up next week, of which we are defending three. The best of luck to all our candidates and campaigners across the country.
ALDC By-Elections Team