Lib Dem diary: We've proved Nick Clegg isn't toxic

Charlotte Henry: 'Yesterday alone, activists made 55,000 phone calls to potential voters'
Charlotte Henry: 'Yesterday alone, activists made 55,000 phone calls to potential voters'

Another election, another disastrous set of polls for the Lib…oh…. In actual fact there was no Lib Dem bludgeoning last night, as the party held its ground in its parliamentary seats and made some key gains too.

As the results come in, the Lib Dem collapse narrative just doesn't fit, with victories in places like Cheltenham, Abingdon, and the Tim Farron's constituency of Westmoreland and Lonsdale.  Held seats in places like Watford didn’t fall.

Over in Cambridgeshire, where the Lib Dems have Cambridge MP Julian Huppert, the party defeated the Conservative council leader.

Still think Nick Clegg is toxic? In a council by-election taking place in his Sheffield Hallam constituency the Lib Dems doubled their majority, gaining a 4.3% swing from Labour.

Lib Dem activists have often been heard staggering around, feet blistered, muttering: "where we work, we win". The results from these elections, following the hard fought victory in Eastleigh, seem to bare that out.

There actually seems to be a bit of knock on effect from Eastleigh, with the victory inspiring more people to dive in and continue campaigning.

I noticed a huge swell of activism throughout the party over the campaign period, with teams of activists from places like London, where there were no elections, going to help parties where seats were being contested.

Yesterday alone, activists made 55,000 phone calls to potential voters, and party organisations like Liberal Youth galvanised activists into phoning and knocking on doors.

This is all actually borne out by the disastrous result in South Shields. The party simply did not have the resources to put up a fight to hold its position with critical county council elections going on at the same time.

While no party wants to lose its deposit, I suspect the 352 votes in a seat that Labour have held since the 1930s won’t be concerning the Lib Dem hierarchy too much. As a Lib Dem source put it to me: "I think the only thing you can tell from the South Shields result is that the Lib Dems won't be winning it in 2015."

Labour fiefdoms are not the party's concern, but the places where they have MPs are.  In Mid Dorset & North Poole, Eastbourne and Cheltenham, where the party hold the parliamentary seat, the Lib Dems increased their lead over the Tories.

The Lib Dems are determined to hold on to what they've got, to solidify the base, and claim the balance of power once again. The county council results show that they are on the right course.


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