Friday, October 06, 2017

The return of Liberal Democrat good third places

Before the general election we all got very excited about the #LibDemFightback,

In a week where there were a dozen local by-elections we would get very excited about a spectacular Liberal Democrat gain and ignore the other 11 contests where there was no Lib Dem candidate or we polled only three per cent.

This summer I suggested this was a classic case of confirmation bias - noticing the evidence that supports our beliefs and disregarding that which does not.

Which is why so many Lib Dems were unpleasantly surprised by our general election result in June.

A couple of years ago I argued that:
we will know the Liberal Democrats are thriving again when we regularly score 20 per cent in wards where we have no history of success.
We haven't reached that happy land yet, but the local by-election results of the last couple of weeks suggest that we are at least getting into double figures in such unpromising territory.

Take yesterday's results, which Mark Pack has helpfully collated for us.

The headlines were that we managed an impressive gain in Redcar and just failed to gain a seat in Hinckley and Bosworth.

But I was more impressed by some of the other results. In wards with no history of Lib Dem success we managed 11 per cent in Warwick, 12 per cent in South Buckinghamshire and 14 per cent in Borehamwood.

There was a sad case where we went backwards in Adur, which was a rare Liberal-run authority in the 1980s, but overall the picture was encouraging.

Let me end by again recommending the by-election previews posted on BritainElects by Andrew Teale.

The other day he spoilt things by calling Oadby and Wigston "one of the UK’s smallest and, it has to be said, more pointless local government districts," but they are usually immaculate.


Anonymous said...

Thanks. As the so-called 'Good 3rd place' in Warwick District from this past week four points spring to mind i) yes we should stand a candidate whenever possible ii) it's a lot of work for the team even if we don't do any doorknocking, iii) we should try always to use online activity and iv) the internal impirtance of doing something shouldn't be underestimated especially for training and member motivation.

.. said...

Engage, engage, engage. Lib Dem’s have for too long been an after thought in mainstream politics and in order to change that the public need to see the candidates, see the party and see/understand the message. Higher visibility publicly. Better presence on social media. Improved quality marketing. For as long as Lib Dem’s are out of sight then it will forever be out of mind.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the party can do modestly well when there is a low turnout, a good local campaign and/or a good local candidate. But frankly if you can't get 11% under those circumstances you may as well give up.

The problem is the lack of a national profile and a distinctively liberal perspective on major issues. On Europe the party's spokesmen are far too quiet. On social liberal issues (housing, universal credit, student debt, the NHS) Labour are making the running.