Thursday, October 11, 2018

Whatever happened to Adur Liberals?

We often talk about the churn in the Liberal Democrat vote - we may get a similar number of votes at two consecutive elections, but a lot of the people who voted for us at the first will not have voted for us second time round.

Do we also get a churn in the areas where we win power too?

When I was elected as a councillor back in the 1980s there were vanishingly few local authorities where the Liberal/SDP Alliance had overall control.

One authority we did run was Adur, a district council in West Sussex whose largest town is Shoreham-by-Sea.

I remember, at the urging of my Association of Liberal Councillors mailing, trying to persuade Harborough District Council to adopt a scheme for making sure that the homes of older residents were warm enough in winter that Adur had put in place.

Checking the relevant page on Wikipedia I find that, remarkably, the Alliance and then the Liberal Democrats had uninterrupted control of Adur between 1980 and 1999.

But something went terribly wrong after that. Today there are no Lib Dem councillors on Adur and a council by-election there this evening has no Lib Dem candidate.

A clue comes in the form of a news story from 2002 which says the Lib Dems had made a conscious decision not to field candidates in that years elections to allow them to regroup.

My guess is that Adur was won with classic Liberal Party community politics - as a compact, largely urban authority it would certainly have lent itself to such an approach.

But that approach takes a great deal of hard work and generally relies on a few driven individuals to make it work. If those individuals get tired or fall out or move away, the whole thing can fall apart.

Of course, there are see authorities that see no churn: the Lib Dems have run the London Borough of Sutton since 1986.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceBut I feel this churn in the areas where we do well is a real phenomenon and the biggest reason for it, our lack of an instinctive core vote, suggests it is related to the churn in the people who vote Lib Dem overall.


Mark Pack said...

As I recall, some serious personal differences between key figures plus illness were major parts of the decline.

Steve Comer said...

Adur was not the only area where Liberal and Liberal Democrats have done very well only to fall back heavily. (Northampton is a more recent example). I am concerned that the party does not seem to really look at what we were successful and then not. If we done't learn from experience we'll make the same mistakes over and over again!