Lib Dems in shock council by-election win over Labour

The Liberal Democrats defeated the Labour candidate by winning 54% of the vote.

According to the Sunderland Echo, the Pallion (Sunderland) by-election took place on Thursday following the death of Labour councillor Paul Watson, who had been the council’s leader for ten years.

In what has been a traditionally Labour ward, the Liberal Democrats surged past the other parties to take the seats.

Britain Elects reports that the Liberal Democrat candidate, Martin Haswell, won 53.9% of the vote, up a staggering 49.5 percentage points. The Labour candidate won 34.8% (down 15.9) while the Conservatives, UKIP and the Greens came in third, fourth and fifth place respectively.

Lib Dem Voice point out that the party won another seat in Sunderland last year, winning with a 33% swing.

Analysis:

Council by-elections – and even national by-elections – can have shock results and should not be taken as a sign that one party or another is performing especially well or badly in the national picture, but the Liberal Democrats’ Thursday win in Sunderland shows the party is far from finished.

Some will take it as a sign that voters want an exit from Brexit or that centre-ground voters have lost faith in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, but that much cannot be extrapolated from this by-election, considering the winning candidate took the seat with 1,251 votes. The Liberal Democrats are traditionally very good at taking and fighting by-elections, so this could be a sign of an extremely well managed campaign.

Nonetheless, this is a striking win, and with the Conservatives busy with an internal civil war over disagreements on Brexit, other parties can make progress. This by-election alone cannot tell us too much, but May’s local elections could be a golden opportunity for the Liberal Democrats.