If liberal democracy in Great Britain has anything akin to a birthday, it would be December 16th. On that day, 321 years ago, the assembly that would become known as the ‘Convention Parliament’ passed the English Bill of Rights. The 1689 Bill set down in law the right of the English people to hold elections to choose their leaders, ended the practices of arbitrary royal intervention in matters of justice and taxation, and established the English Parliament as a sovereign body. As if that glorious heritage was not enough, it was 84 years later to the day that the Boston Tea Party kick-started a liberal revolution in another part of the world. Fast forward to December 16 2010, and liberal democracy in Britain is still alive, kicking, and not looking half bad for a 300-year-old, with a handsome tally of six principal council by-elections being decided on the day and two contested elections out in the towns.
Unfortunately, it’s been a week of slim pickings for Liberal Democrats in yesterday’s contests; we stood candidates in five of the six main events but, other than a pretty distant second in Tunbridge Wells, didn’t come away with a great deal to crow about. The trend for incumbent holds continues with only two seats changing hands. Thursday’s shock result was Labour losing the Spitalfields and Banglatown ward of Tower Hamlets to Respect, who staged a dramatic 22% surge at the expense of both the Lib Dem focus team and the Green Party. Labour clawed themselves back to net gain/loss of zero for the week by plucking Dover Town on Kent County Council from the Tories. Again, the local Lib Dems had a bit of a torrid time, although a UKIP debutant taking nearly 12% looks like the straw that broke the Conservative camel’s back. Elsewhere, the Tories fought and held each of the remaining four seats. In Bromsgrove’s Marlbrook it was by the fingernails as a precipitous 27% decline left them with a majority slashed to forty eight. Lydden and Temple Newell ward in Dover was a little more comfortable, with a drop of 5% leaving a Conservative vote in the low sixties. In Tunbridge Wells’ Sherwood, a barely perceptible percentage decrease resulted in a painless Tory hold, and Worcestershire County Council’s Alvechurch division bucked the trend and returned a Conservative County Councillor with an increase of 11%.
Out in the towns, the Dover Alliance wrested the Castle ward on Dover Town Council from the Tories whilst Labour held in the Low Spennymoor and Trudhoe Grange ward of Spennymoor TC.
Just when you thought your festive season was complete, there will be another two principal council by-elections taking place next week. On Tuesday, the good people of Wiltshire will be replacing a resigned Conservative in Bromham, Rowde, and Potterne, while on Thursday it’s the turn of East Herts to welcome a new public servant to the fold. Finally, for those of you who may not have heard, there will be a parliamentary by-election in Oldham East & Saddleworth on January 13th and it is full steam ahead for what could be a famous Lib Dem victory over a thoroughly discredited Labour Party and their thoroughly despicable 2010 election campaign. If you can make it to Oldham before then, the HQ is open all the way to Christmas Eve, Tuesday 28th through to New Year’s Eve, and from Tuesday 4th January to the big day itself.
In addition to the traditional best of luck to all our candidates and campaigners, ALDC would like to wish all Liberal Democrats, fellow travellers, and recreational readers, a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.