Saturday, 6 August 2011

Lib Dems win another by-election

The Liberal Democrats were celebrating their second principal authority by-election win in eight days as they gained the South Petherton division in Somerset from the Conservatives on Thursday. This follows their victory in Warrington last week where they held a ward they had lost to Labour in the 2010 and 2011 elections.

The vacancy in South Petherton was caused by the resignation of Conservative Councillor Anne Larpent, who is moving to Australia because of her husband's career. She won her seat in 2009 by a 94 vote margin but the Liberal Democrats attracted more support here than the Tories in this May's District Council elections. Paul Maxwell built on that performance to take the seat comfortably with a majority of 390 votes.

The win not only represented a 9.4% swing from the 2009 election but a swing of approximately 7% from the District elections just three months ago. Although the Liberal Democrats have won two by-elections since their disastrous May 5th the previous victories were aided by controversial circumstances hindering their opponents. As far as I can tell there was no such help for the Lib Dems in this victory, which would indicate the 2011 elections may well have been the low point for the party. It has always been quite clear that their support has held up a lot better in areas where they have a strong local presence (this division is in David Laws' Yeovil constituency) and party activists must be buoyed by the fact that with a good campaign they can still win these marginal by-elections.

The Conservatives still enjoy an eight seat majority on Somerset County Council which they should hold until the next elections in 2013.

South Petherton (Somerset)

By-Election Candidate


Vote %


Paul Maxwell (E)




Paul Thompson




Ian Greenfield




Godfrey Davey




N/C (Ind)




In minor by-election news we heard that the Liberal Democrats also won a seat on Aberystwyth Town Council. The circumstances were a bit strange as the vacancy was caused by the resignation of a Councillor who was elected as a Lib Dem, resigned from the party, resigned from the Council and then contested the resulting by-election as an Independent! I'll send you over to Mark Cole's blog to read more about that result.


Tom Harris


  1. The Liberal Democrats were celebrating their second principle authority by-election win in eight days

    That should be principal; principles are something that the Lib Dems' opponents would claim they never had...

  2. The limitations of a spell checker...!