Where the Liberal Democrats were well organised and campaigned strongly, we did extremely well. We gained Northampton and Hinckley & Bosworth, and increased their grip on Oadby & Wigston.
But we lost badly in both Leicester - where the council group had split - and Harborough - where we are short of activists and the party infrastructure was sacrificed in pursuit of victory at the last general election.
This pattern was repeated nationally. As Norfolk Blogger shows, the we generally did well in constituencies with Lib Dem MPs or are Lib Dem targets for next time round. Elsewhere we tended to slip back, losing the odd seat to the Tories.
If this analysis is right, it suggests that nothing that happened on Thursday should make us too alarmed about the next general election. And we should not be too surprised that we slipped back in areas where we are weak on the ground. After all, it used to be expected that the main opposition party would do spectacularly well in mid-term local elections. The Tories even won Sheffield in the late 1960s.
There are, however, two things that should worry us about Thursday.
The first is the failure of the party's national campaigning to bear fruit over and above that won by local activism. This is seen most clearly in the results in Scotland and Wales. James Graham writes of the Welsh experience:
the Lib Dems have a sad history of failing to live up to our ever declining ambitions in Assembly elections, and once again we have failed to break our duck of 6 AMs. Back in 1999, I remember being confidently told by the then-Lib Dem Chief Exec that we would get 11-12 AMs. In 2003, at least one person predicted we’d get up to around 10. This year, people were talking of 7-9 AMs being a sure thing. The worst thing of it all is that, on paper, they should have been right. Because the system is only semi-proportional (2/3rds FPTP, 1/3rd list), each region has 4 top ups and we are the fourth party, we need to make fairly modest gains in each region to significantly increase our number of assembly members. In South Wales Central, we only needed an increase of 1% to double our Assembly Members. The fact that we have failed to do this twice now ought to be setting off alarm bells about how we fight the Welsh air war.The other thing that should worry us is our limited ability to make gains from Labour in the North of England.
Look at the figures: Manchester (net increase of only 1 seat),Warrington (ditto and still NOC), Kirklees (-2), Leeds (-1), Liverpool (-4),Oldham (-1), Newcastle (-3), St Helens (no change). Of the Northern targets, only Rochdale was gained outright, and that from NOC with a net gain of only 2 seats. There was a net gain of 4 seats in Sheffield, which was not enough to regain control. (Thanks to Simon Titley.)
A year ago I wrote that "unless things change - the next election is likely to be rather like the last one for the Liberal Democrats". This again appears to be the moral from the local elections results. Shouldn't we be doing better than that?