Friday, August 17, 2018

It would have been a very poor result if we hadn't gained Knaresborough last night

There were three local by-elections last night and in one them the Liberal Democrats gained the seat from the Conservatives.

So a good night for us then? .

Each Thursday Andrew Teale published wonderfully detailed previews of that week's by-elections. So let's have a look at last night's results in the light of his preview.

There was a by-election in the Gwynfi ward of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, but the Liberal Democrats did not field a candidate.

Andrew Teale gives the results for the ward going back to 1983 and there has never been a Lib Dem (or Liberal or SDP) candidate in all that time, so our no-show last night was no surprise.

Incidentally, the Conservatives have not fielded a candidate in Gwynfi since 1983 either. Last night they did and got 4 votes. The seat was gained from Labour by an Independent.

The second by-election was in the East ward of Bury Council and it was a comfortable hold for Labour.

There was a Lib Dem candidate for the first time since 2011, and he came fifth with 2.2 per cent of the vote.

Back in 2004, Andrew Teale records, the only Lib Dem candidate polled over a thousand votes at the council elections in this three-member ward.

The third by-election was in the Knaresborough ward of North Yorkshire County Council and it was here that we made our gain.

Looking at Andrew Teale's preview, however, you find that the Lib Dems held this seat from 2005 to 2017. In other words, it was a ward we could win even during the Coalition.

Which suggests that if we had not gained Knaresborough last night it would have been a sign that we were making no sort of a recovery at all. 

So perhaps we should not get too carried away by this result.

Let me repeat what I wrote in February:
I love to see the Lib Dems gaining seats in local by-elections and tweet the results as eagerly as anyone. 
But, as I have blogged before, we must beware of confirmation bias – our tendency to notice evidence that supports our view (say, that there is a Lib Dem revival taking place) and pass rapidly over evidence that does not. 
I suspect this bias explains why we Lib Dems were disappointed by last year’s general election result and even more why we were shocked when we lost seats in the local elections the month before.
None of this is to detract in any way from the efforts of Lib Dem activists in Knaresborough or anywhere else, who work so hard for these results.

Though, as Simon Titley used to point out, the fact that we have to work so hard to remind our voters that they usually vote for us is a sign of weakness not strength. We have little core support and thus few safe seats.

Let me end on a happier note by saying how much I like Knaresborough. I took the photograph of it above when, many years ago, I was a student at York.

1 comment:

Michael said...

i think you are being a little bit disingenuous. We got a 20% increase in our vote against what Andrew Teale wrote before the result:

"Harrogate council held a full election on new ward boundaries in May this year: the four new Knaresborough wards split 3 to the Tories and 1 to the Lib Dems, and in vote terms the Conservatives led 46-38 across the division.

So, good omens for the defending Conservative candidate. Phil Ireland is the present Mayor of Knaresborough and has been a Harrogate district councillor since 2011: he represents Knaresborough Aspin and Calcutt ward on the district council, where he is the cabinet member for sustainable transport... "

It is though important not to cherry-pick good or bad results but look at the averages against where we were in the polls last time the seats were fought.