The Liberal Democrats have emerged as the runaway winners of the 2019 local elections, as an unprecedented Lib Dem wave has swept England, with cataclysmic losses for the Conservative Party, and a net loss for the pro-Brexit Labour Party — despite being an opposition party to a nine-year government.
The Lib Dems gained 704 seats at the final count, their largest gains of all time, and significantly in excess of the 411 seats they lost in 2015. Although mainstream analysts have called this merely a “bounce back”, the results in fact suggest that this is more than that, with the party making significant gains in areas where they have had little strength before, such as Barnsley, Sunderland and Chelmsford.
The party has all but wiped out the Tories in many places, including overturning staggering Conservative majorities in Bath and North East Somerset and the Vale of White Horse in Oxfordshire to take the councils outright, while pushing several more into No Overall Control. Tory Brexiteer Michael Gove had a shock too tonight, as his home Surrey Heath council saw the Conservatives one away from losing their majority to the Lib Dems.
They even made inroads against Labour in so-called “Leave areas” like Sunderland and Barnsley, showing an appetite in traditionally Brexit-supporting areas to change their mind, and stop a nationally embarrassing Brexit.
The Liberal Democrats’ gains far outstripped any of the other parties, including the Greens, who although breaking through in some limited areas, failed to make much of an impact. This chart shows the difference in size between the parties’ gains, and gives further credence to the idea that the Liberal Democrats are the strongest pro-EU party:
Indeed, the Liberal Democrats made the most gains in every European election region in England. In a particularly enthusing result for the party, they gained 157 seats in the South West, by far the strongest party, while the Greens could muster barely more than two dozen. This will concern Green operatives seeking to defend their only restanding MEP – particularly as polls show the Greens behind in the South West, and as questions are asked about the MEP’s apparent commitment to witch doctors and alternative medicine.
A Liberal Democrat party source told The Torch that “these gains are utterly stunning – we never imagined that we’d get them, and even the most outlandish projection said we’d only make 500 gains.”
“Our wins came across the country – in Northern, so-called “Leave-voting” places like Barnsley and Sunderland, in Northern cities like York and Manchester, in Southern cities like Winchester and Cambridge, and in the Southern shires, like Oxfordshire, Devon and Somerset.”
“The people are clearly uniting behind us because of our very clear message: we want to stop Brexit, and we are the strongest party to deliver that.”
The Liberal Democrats will now look forward to what is set to be a bruising European election campaign as they vie with the Greens and Change UK The Independent Group for votes. But if these local elections are anything to go by, their strength, infrastructure, and latent support across the country will make it an actively harmful decision to vote for anyone but the Lib Dems.