At first glance, Thursday’s election results were not overly impressive for the Liberal Democrats. Dig a little deeper though, and something rather impressive emerges.
In two parliamentary by-elections, the standout features were an historic win for the Conservatives in Copeland, and Labour fending off a challenge from the UKIP leader in Stoke on Trent Central. Quite rightly, these have dominated the headlines. The Liberal Democrats distant third place in Copeland and fourth place in Stoke got little attention, even though both of these represented double the share of vote they got in the 2015 general election.
What makes this doubling of share remarkable, is that on a day of dreadful weather, with a low percentage poll in each contest, the Liberal Democrats increased not just their share of the vote, but also the actual number of ballots cast. What’s more, there’s a pattern here: they’ve done the same thing in each of the six by-elections held since the EU referendum. Stepping back from Thursday’s two elections to take a longer view, of all nine by-elections held since the 2015 general election, we see that aggregating the total ballots, the Liberal Democrats have increased their total vote by an impressive 57%:
Liberal Democrats are also the only party to have increased their share of the vote – by almost 10%, going from 6.7% to 16.6%
But that’s not all the good news from current by-elections. In addition to this week’s parliamentary elections, there were more of the usual local by-elections. As has been customary in recent months, once again the Liberal Democrats turned in some stunning local results, gaining two seats each from Conservatives and from Labour – and all in wards that they did not even contest, last time around.