There were eight principal by-elections this week in Blackpool, Doncaster, Maidstone, Northumberland, Reading, Rhondda, Walsall and Windsor. The Liberal Democrats made two gains, Labour held four seats, UKIP gained one seat and an Independent held one seat.
The Berwick Liberal Democrats stormed to victory in the rural ward of Longhoughton (Northumberland CC). Kate Cairns won just shy of 50% of the vote to gain the seat for the Liberal Democrats after the death of a long standing and popular Independent councillor. The division which had not seen such a competitive election in a long time saw the Conservatives come second with 23.5%, an Independent came third (13.9%), UKIP were fourth with 9.8% and Labour trailed in last with 3.2%. Campaigning is not easy in the division which is nearly the size of Luxembourg so the local Liberal Democrats made good use of Virtual Phone Banks and had help with telephoning from across the country. They also made use of ALDC best practice resources to run a strong traditional literature campaign. Julie Pörksen, the local PPC who is hoping to succeed Sir Alan Beith, helped lead the by-election effort and ran a popular local campaign about Labour cutting post-16 subsidised transport. Cllr Cairns is a parish councillor and well-known road safety champion and so the campaign also focused on speeding, cycle safety, potholes and parking along the coastal road.
The Liberal Democrats also gained a seat in Staplehurst ward from the Conservatives in Maidstone and the Weald. Just six votes separated victorious Paulina Watson from her Conservative opponent. The Liberal Democrat share of the vote increased by 9% to 36.2%, the Conservatives were runners up with 35.9%, UKIP’s vote dropped 5% to come third on 18.5%, Labour got 7% and the Green Party came last with 2.4%. Cllr Watson who is Dutch was a manager in social care for Kent County Council. The Conservative’s council’s housing expansion plans were the key issue in the by-election. The result is a blow to the Tory minority-council and leaves the current composition as 24 Conservatives, 20 Liberal Democrats, five Independents, four UKIP and two Labour councillors.
For all the detailed results see the ALDC elections page: https://www.aldc.org/category/by-election-results/