A volatile electorate

This decline in unswerving party loyalties has long been evident in local government too. Although, to the dismay of purists, local elections do usually reflect overall national trends, a significant proportion of electors are now swayed by factors relevant to their community and make their choice accordingly.

Local issues, respected candidates, a reaction against unpopular incumbent councils, and simply a view that one party is more locally focused than its rivals can all play their part. Even when general and local elections coincide there is ample evidence that many people choose different parties on the same visit to the polling station.

The moral from this is that we should not read too much about the possible outcome of one type of election from actual results in another.

The recent comfortable Liberal Democrat victory in the Tudor ward of Watford, for example, will have been no surprise in an authority that has been under that party’s control – and with a Lib Dem directly elected mayor – since 2002. However, it has never been able to turn that local dominance into victory in the differently drawn Watford parliamentary constituency.

The Liberal Democrats held the constituency of Taunton, Somerset, for most of 1997 to 2015 (latterly as Taunton Deane) and controlled the council throughout the 1990s. The new Somerset West and Taunton District Council was narrowly won by the Liberal Democrats at its inaugural elections in May and they have now added two gains in Taunton itself. Do not assume, though, that this means they are poised to overturn the Conservatives’ near 16,000 majority from 2017.

A 16,000 Conservative majority is also the hurdle facing the Liberal Democrats in South Cambridgeshire. Current MP Heidi Allen has now defected to Jo Swinson’s party and will be hoping to capitalise on her new party’s local strength.

Following boundary changes in 2018, the Lib Dems took 30 out of 45 council seats, raising the possibility of a credible General Election challenge in a strongly Remain voting area. However, with some of the Lib Dems’ best performing wards not actually in Ms Allen’s constituency, her task looks Herculean even in these volatile times.

For all the latest by-election results in full, including a spreadsheet of voting statistics, please download the excel spreadsheet of results.

local by-elections
Basingstoke and Deane, Bramley 
and Sherfield
IND GAIN FROM CON
25.1% over Con
Turnout 30%
Canterbury, Chestfield
CON HELD
10.5% over Lib Dem Turnout 27.8%
Charnwood, Syston West
CON HELD
1.9% over Green
Turnout 18.1%
Corby, Beanfield
LAB HELD
22% over Con Turnout 27.1%
Crawley, Tilgate
CON HELD
26.7% over Lab
Turnout 29%
Essex, Clacton East
IND HELD
0.2% over Con
Turnout 26.7%
Hammersmith & Fulham, Fulham Broadway
LAB HELD
19.9% over Con
Turnout 31.7%
Ipswich, Alexandra
LAB HELD
30.6% over Lib Dem Turnout 21.3%
Liverpool, Old Swan
LAB HELD
41.3% over Lib
Turnout 18.6%
Luton, Icknield
LAB GAIN FROM CON
1.4% over Con
Turnout 27.2%
Rochford, Sweyne Park and Grange
CON GAIN FROM RES
12.3% over Lib Dem Turnout 21.9%
St Albans, Clarence
LIB DEM HELD
50.5% over Con
Turnout 32.3%
Somerset West and Taunton, Norton Fitzwarren and Staplegrove
LIB DEM GAIN FROM IND
15.1% over Con
Turnout 25.9%
Somerset West and Taunton, Vivary
LIB DEM GAIN FROM CON
29.1% over Con
Turnout 32.1%
Watford, Tudor
LIB DEM HELD
24.3% over Con
Turnout 30.5%
West Sussex, Three Bridges
CON HELD
22.2% over Lab
Turnout 25%
Wiltshire, Ethandune
CON HELD
14% over Lib Dem
Turnout 38%
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