Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Tories took back control of a blue wall council on Thursday and no one will admit it

On Thursday we failed to hold a Liberal Democrat seat in Surrey Heath with the result that the Conservatives won overall control of the council.

But you wouldn't know it from the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors' report on Lib Dem Voice:

On Surrey Heath Borough Council, Lib Dem candidate Jacques Olmo came agonisingly close to beating the Conservatives in Frimley Green ward. Well done to Jacques and the team for winning 47% of the vote. But sadly, they were just 19 votes shy of the Conservatives.

You would be somewhat better informed by the post on the blog written by Mark Pack, the president of our party. (May he live for ever.)

Under the headline:

Conservatives gain seat from Lib Dems after Ukip no-show

Mark writes of

a rare Liberal Democrat loss to the Conservatives after a recount and helped by the absence of Ukip this time:

Commiserations to Jacques Olmo and the team for getting so close but not quite making it in this contest in Michael Gove’s constituency.

But if you go to the indispensable by-election preview written by Andrew Teale, you will find that Ukip didn't have that much to do with it.

The result last time this three-member ward was fought (May 2019) was:

Lib Dems 1019/1012/889
Cons 601/568/519
Ukip 269
Pirate Party 190

Given that demolishing the Tories' blue wall is our only apparent strategy, this is a deeply disappointing result.

My worry is that if we are not honest about how badly we are doing then the party will continue to dwindle.

It reminds me of the way we reacted to the collapse of 2015 by tweeting incessantly about the #LibDemFightback. 

Having convinced ourselves it was a real phenomenon, we were shocked when our vote went down at the 2017 election.


Mark Johnston said...

Thx. I've shared link to Surrey LD FB group.

nigel hunter said...

With Gove now in charge of local govnt strategy and Conservatives on the up we have to sharpen our ways

Matt (Bristol) said...

As much as I like many things about the Lib Dems, I'm really not sure how they have convinced themselves that you can win the Home Counties by marrying economic centrism and localism, and simultaneously keep one hand on the established more overtly liberal activists but not make any kind of signal that they are capable of any kind of reconciliation with any kind of social conservatism.

In many parts of the Home Counties, moderate social conservatism and centrism go hand in hand. I've never seen the party really acknowledge this. I'm not talking about overt reactionism or 'little Englander' nationalism here, but a sort of English woolly gradualism that could be summarised as an acceptance that:
- people round here aren't too bad although cruelty and selfishness are to be avoided and quietly abhorred
- we shouldn't be made to feel bad about the choices people in our community made in the past, although we can make better ones for the future
- change should be taken gradually and not overhyped, although it is probably (sometime grudgingly) necessary
- although most people want to live within a moderately liberal overall ethos, people have a right to hold 'old fashioned' opinions and still participate in wider society

If the party finds difficulty holding people with such opinions close without cognitive dissonance (or it finds tabloid journalists and Tory 'wedge' tactics have got there ahead of it), it should probably give up on the Home Counties now.