I’ve been in Belfast with the day job since Thursday – got back earlier today – so catching up on the English County Council Election results. The LibDem County Council results in England – the disappointing south-west apart – showed good, solid progress. In the BBC projected vote share, we are 5% ahead of Labour – 28% to 23%, with the Conservatives on 38%. We are up 3% on last year, Labour down 1% and the Conservatives down 6%. It is our best share of the vote this Parliament and although there is no denying the Tories had a good day – in actual votes, they were well short of their 40% target and the ‘inevitability’ of a Tory General Election win is no way a foregone conclusion.
The superb result in Bristol, where we won 15 of the 23 seats up for election – and took control of the Council for the first time – showed the LibDems are the main players against Labour in most of the cities across the UK (and I mean UK – Aberdeen, Cardiff, Edinburgh – not just in England).
The media spin is of a Conservative clean-sweep, but that is inaccurate. In many of our key parliamentary battlegrounds across southern England we have done well, holding our own and making small gains against the Conservatives. We made net gains from the Conservatives in, among other places, Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Cumbria, East Sussex, Dorset, the Isle of Wight, Warwickshire and West Sussex.
In the north of England, the LibDems are clearly the challengers in much of Labour’s traditional heartland, with particularly spectacular gains in Burnley and Ashfield and – with net gains in Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire – the party is gaining right across the Midlands.
So – off to the European Election count at the Caird Hall tomorrow night!
Footnote – given the ‘invisible’ European Election in Scotland (and England and Wales), it was rather heartening to drive through Belfast on Thursday and see election posters everywhere.
A very different election in many ways, with the key question being – will Sinn Fein top the poll for the first time? Interestingly, I note the Official Unionists are standing as “Conservative and Unionist” and their posters use Cameron’s “Vote for change” slogan and logo. Perhaps not the best year for them to link up with the Tories, with the Unionist vote split between the DUP, UUP with added fake Dave, and Jim Allister MEP’s Traditional Unionist Voice, who I suspect will give the two main unionist parties a run for their money.
A thoroughly enjoyable time (as usual!) in Belfast, with glorious weather.