Liberal Democrats finally ‘recovering from disaster’ of election defeats with local council gains

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The Liberal Democrats are finally putting “the disaster” of recent election thrashings behind them with significant local council gains, a polling expert has suggested.

Ed Davey’s party is celebrating winning more than 150 extra seats in Thursday’s elections, most notably seizing the new Somerset unitary authority in a crucial Tory-dominated area.

The Lib Dems also took seats from the Conservatives in Stockport, in Wimbledon, in south west London, in Berkshire, and in David Cameron’s former backyard of West Oxfordshire.

Only a revival by the party all-but wiped out in 2015 can deliver a Labor victory at the next general election, by winning seats from the Tories in Blue-Yellow battlegrounds.

Speaking in Wimbledon, Sir Ed claimed the results amounted to “an almighty shockwave that will bring this Conservative government tumbling down”.

Voters have “had enough” of rising living costs, an NHS in crisis and of “a prime minister who breaks the law and lies about it”, he argued.

“The tectonic plates of British politics are shifting beneath Boris Johnson’s feet. And now it’s time for Conservative MPs to plunge him into the abyss,” Sir Ed said.

John Curtice, an elections expert – speaking before the Somerset result – described the Lib Dem improvement as “relatively modest”, saying: “It’s up a couple of points as compared with 2018.”

The party had won more seats than Labor largely because of the technicality of gains “in smaller, more rural councils where the wards are smaller, so you get more seats per person”.

But Sir John told BBC Radio 4: “Even so, I think Liberal Democrats might just be hoping that, on this occasion – against a backdrop that was not particularly propitious for them – perhaps finally beginning to demonstrate some evidence of progress and recovery from the disaster of the 2015 general election.

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“It’s taken a long time. Maybe, maybe at least the foundations of recovery, or potential recovery at least, have been laid for them.”

Later, a buoyant Sir Ed celebrated his victory in Somerset, a result widely seen as a pointer to looming Westminster battles.

A by-election is looming in nearby Tiverton and Honiton, where Neil Parish quit over his porn shame, while David Warburton, the Conservative MP in Somerton and Frome, is currently suspended.

The Lib Dems ended Conservative control of Wokingham Borough Council, in the seat of ex-cabinet minister John Redwood, and won the new Westmorland and Furness unitary authority.

In Hull, the party embarrassed Keir Starmer by snatching the city council from Labour, underlining that party’s difficulties in parts of the North.

Labor blamed their loss of control of Hull – after more than a decline in power in the city – on a collapse of the Tory vote, which delivered victories to the Lib Dems.

The party gained three seats, leaving it with 29 seats on the 57-seat council, compared with 27 for Labor and one independent. The Conservatives lost their last remaining seat.

Daren Hale, the outgoing Labor council leader, told the BBC: “In the seats we held, our majority went up.

“It was the collapse of the Tory vote, which, in a sense, the Labor party isn’t responsible for, that led to those seats changing hands.”

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www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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