This week saw eight principal authority by-elections and two deferred elections in Cheltenham and Tower Hamlets.
In Old Laund Booth ward (Pendle BC), Brian Newman successfully held the seat for the Liberal Democrats. Brian received 58.3% of the vote; increasing the Liberal Democrat vote share by 9.7%. The Conservatives vote dropped 10.9% to come second on 36.3%. UKIP failed to gain any traction coming a poor third with just 27 votes and the Blue Party (a breakaway of the BNP) came last with only 13 votes. Lord Greaves who was Cllr Newman’s agent says has put the victory down to three reasons. Firstly Cllr Newman is a brilliant candidate who is an active and popular Chairman of the local parish council. He is well known and works hard in the old mill town just outside Pendle which now serves as a commuter village. The winning campaign focused heavily on the record of action of the previous Liberal Democrat councillor who had to stand down due to ill health. The local team fought a very intensive campaign and amazingly managed to contact 95% of households. An endorsement letter from the outgoing councillor, six ward-wide FOCUS leaflets, letters to postal votes and targeted letters to different groups helped the team to ensure the Liberal Democrats held the seat. On polling day everywhere was knocked up twice in addition to the phone knock up. The Conservatives also did a lot of work in the ward; the Tory MP even spent the whole day in the ward. Campaigning was grounded in local issues. The local Liberal Democrats have been campaigning against Tory plans to expand an industrial estate. When the Conservative candidate in the by-election said she was against the plans it carried little weight given the Conservative Council and MP have been its biggest proponents. UKIP did no campaigning and the local team feel running a strong localised campaign helped to dampen any swing towards them.
The deffered election in Charlton Park (Cheltenham BC) saw the Liberal Democrat sweep to victory in a ward the party has never held before. Paul Baker, who is the Chairman of Cheltenham Town FC, was top of the scoreboard after securing 45.9% of the vote. The Conservatives came second with 40.9% and UKIP third with 8.2%. Labour and the Green Party came joint fourth with 2.5%. The winning Liberal Democrat team fought a typically community driven campaign over 4 years reducing the majority to 104 2 years ago, regular ‘Focus’ newsletters, street letters and surveys. The campaign itself began in March and involved knocking on every door twice, in the final week they produced a Focus, a personal letter in a hand written envelope, an eve of poll, a targeted ‘Good Morning’ and two on the day knock ups. There were 3 or 4 teams out knocking up and knocked on all target voters at least twice. This was backed up by telephone calls, with the MP Martin Horwood calling the last voter 10 minutes before close of poll ! The team fought a positive campaign throughout focusing on the strengths of the candidate, the issues, what they had done and the good record of the Lib Dem Council. Cllr Baker said: “I am delighted and exhausted to say the least. We have worked very hard on a very long campaign – knocking on hundreds of residents over the last few months – and it has been a really exuberant experience. We have taken a seat in what was a Conservative heartland.” The result means the Liberal Democrats won 14 of the 20 seats up in Cheltenham this year compared to four for the Conservatives and two for the People Against Bureaucracy. Martin Horwood, the Lib Dem MP for Cheltenham, said: “When we fight a good, positive campaign and we work really hard we can win anywhere. [The result] is obviously a good omen for next year but I am not complacent.”
For all the detailed results see the ALDC elections page: https://www.aldc.org/category/by-election-results/