Lytham St Johns By-Election Result.
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Just after the polls closed in the St John's (Lytham) by-election on Thursday 27th, and thanks to another town hall watcher close to the count, we were able to send a newsflash with the following result:
- Mark Bamforth (Ratepayer) 804
- Brenda Blackshaw (Conservative) 205
- Bob Dennett (Green Party Stop Fracking Now) 53
- Carol Gilligan (Liberal Democrat) 62
- Timothy Wood ( UK Independence Party) 100
The first thing we must say is a huge 'well done' to postmaster Mark Bamforth in his election victory.
He's the sort of chap who sets out his stall and gets organised with the minimum of fuss. An unceremonial, practical man who makes things happen, and we wish him well representing the people of St John's Ward.
It's really hard for candidates who stand as independents or for a small party like the Fylde Ratepayers (who Mark stood for). They don't have the same sort of budget available to national parties with fund-raising machines, and they don't have
big teams of folk to go out and knock on doors and deliver leaflets. It's very much a D.I.Y. job, so it's all the more to Mark's credit that he pulled it off by such a margin.
He's a very well known and extremely popular chap, and that counts heavily toward his success. It also skews the results somewhat, so it's dangerous to make too many extrapolations as to what will happen in other elections from this result.
But even allowing for that, the result is of seismic proportions for the other participants.
The turnout was about 33% of the 3,691 electors in the ward (1,229 ballot papers were issued, and just 5 were spoilt)
In the 2011 Borough Election, St Johns ward had a turnout of 43.3% - so only about 400 people who voted in the 2011 election didn't bother to do so this time.
A ten percent reduction in turnout isn't huge, so you can't say this result is significantly down to a change in turnout numbers.
The 2011 result was:
- Brenda Margaret Ackers, Con
- Tim Ashton, Con
- Michael Scott Cornah, Con
- Carol Josephine Gilligan, Lib Dem
- Kath Harper (no party/description stated)
So the first conclusion to draw is an enormous collapse in the vote of the parties that share government of the country.
As we said in our pre-election article, the Conservative candidate was not known to us personally, but we understand she worked hard, is known in political circles, and in the ward, and she could call
on a well organised (if somewhat depleted in terms of numbers) party machine for support.
So this result will be an enormous shock for Fylde's Conservatives. They will no doubt rationalise it on Cllr Bamforth's personal popularity. But it is nevertheless a stunning moment for them.
We will be equally interested to see the result of the Warton *Parish* Council by-election which we heard was called by Conservative supporters or sympathisers. Parish vacancies are usually filled by co-opting until the next election, but a formal
election has been called in Warton. We think this is to allow the Conservative group to assess the scale of the damage to their vote in Warton after the planning disaster that they were about to dump on Warton.
If the result in Warton is anything like the result in St Johns ward, there will be alarm bells ringing very loudly for the Conservatives whose majority at the last Borough Election was just one - or at least it was before two councillors who
had previously been Conservative Cabinet members stood as Independents, and then became Conservatives again (and were reinstated to their former Cabinet positions) after having been elected as Independents.
The other big shock is for the Lib Dems.
It is little short of a disaster for them. We do know Carol Gilligan, and she is both hard working and effective. Furthermore, the Lib Dems have a strong team of party workers and are excellent at pavement politics - getting issues sorted out for
local people on the ground. So we can't see that the terrible result for them is much to do with their candidate here, nor is it about the efforts of the local party workers. We think it's to do with how they are currently perceived now they are in
the Coalition Government.
We suspect this result is about disillusionment with the national situation - partly from the Lib Dem Leader (who showed such promise to his supporters but who has become a walking disaster for his members), and partly - perhaps mostly - from
the toxic branding that has now attached to the party name, and which has alienated many of the Lib Dem supporters.
The one think that Lib Dems were known for was their principled stand (right or wrong, agree or disagree as you will, it *was* always principled and thought through). But that principled integrity has been destroyed through compromise in the
process of coalition..
We think it will take a generation to rebuild that lost trust.
In fact though, the Lib Dems can take some consolation that the local result saw the Conservative vote fall by about 24% whilst the Lib Dem vote fell by around 17%.
These sort of stats are crumbs of comfort when you're in a bad place.
The results for the major parties is of a scale that, in a few weeks or months, when all the fuss has died down, can lead to changes in leadership and structure. A re-organisation and purge to re-invigorate those involved. We'll keep half an eye out
UKIP garnered half as many votes as the Conservatives, even though neither were within a mile of the winner. That's probably a better result than UKIP might have expected.
To date, their vote in Fylde has been mostly static and, whilst again no squares have been broken this time, we suspect they won't be too disappointed given the landslide of votes tipped toward Mark Bamforth.
Finally we come to the Green / Anti-Fracking vote which must have been a big disappointment to their candidate. That's especially so when it was St John's Ward which (As far as memory serves - and that's not wholly reliable these days), was the
only ward in Fylde to elect a Green Party candidate (former Cllr Roger Lloyd) as a councillor in times past.
It shows that the anti-fracking vote is not yet mobilised, but we know the support base is growing steadily and the time will probably come when anti-fracking becomes a key electoral issue.
So, where do we go from here?
Well, there is a Council meeting on Monday at which Cllr Bamforth will make his debut.
He will find Fylde a very much different place to that which he knew before, and we suspect he will take a little time to adjust to it, as indeed, it will take a little time for FBC to adjust to a man of action who is impatient to make things
Dated: 29 March 2014