Will Charles have calmed the doubters?

Will Charles have calmed the doubters?

    How will tonight’s by-elections go?

In the immediate aftermath of last year’s Lib Dem conference the party’s poll ratings soared to the dizzy heights of 29% – a point ahead of the Tories and just 3 points behind Labour. The share was never to get anywhere near that again and on May 5th 22.7% of the electorate cast their votes for Charles Kennedy’s party.

The dashed expectations were surely one of the causes of the widespread view in Blackpool this week that in spite of the seat gains off Labour they could have done better. Charles’s 2004 rhetoric that they would replace the Tories as the official opposition looked a bit sick.

    Given the less than postive nature of the media coverage this week we doubt whether they’ll get anywhere near to the September 2004 ratings in the new round of polls which comes out in the next few days.

But there’s another test of political trends that we can follow – the local council by-elections that take place almost every Thursday throughout the year. In response to special requests we are experimenting with a regular Thursday evening piece that, hopefully, will be a good introduction to a discussion on the results as they come out.

Tonight there are three local contests with significant Lib Dem interest.

  • The Seaton seat in East Devon where the party is defending;
  • The Sidmouth Town for the same council where the Tories are defending
  • The Eton Wick ward in Windsor & Maidenhead where Labour, interestingly, are defending.
  • Will there be any clues about the Lib Dem leadership from these results? The polls close at 9pm.

    Mike Smithson

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