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.

The problem with this strategy is that in the public’s eyes, the party lacks a clear agenda other than opposing Brexit. The lack of a leadership contest following Tim Farron’s departure led to only limited exposure for Vince Cable. A leadership battle would have allowed for a contest of ideas, and an extensive period of exposure for the party, resulting in a better policy platform.

The party is all for having a second referendum with the option of keeping the UK inside the EU. But what else does it stand for? With Corbyn pulling Labour to the left and the Conservatives on a seemingly persistent right-ward trajectory, there is space in the centre to champion an open, positive, liberal message. But to do that, the party needs to shout its other policy ideas from the rooftops alongside Brexit.

The party needs to be more vocal about its plans to reinvigorate British democracy. There is significant demand for reform of the country’s outdated FPTP voting system and the archaic House of Lords, which it needs to capitalise on and call on Labour to back. Together, the progressive parties have a unique chance to transform Britain's democracy for the better at the next election.

The party needs to highlight environmental champion credentials, working with the Greens to build a better future for the country and the planet. In early January, the Independent