Lib Dems worried as Tories taste success in West of England

 

 Bristol air.jpg

Less than a month ago, the Liberal Democrat candidate hoping to become the first ever elected West of England mayor was describing his campaign as the perfect springboard for the General Election.

Well if that is the case Stephen Willliams and his party may want to look away now.

Mr Williams lost his parliamentary seat in Bristol to Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire in the last General Election and had pinned his hopes on becoming the man in charge of transport, planning and local training for the region.

The new mayor – Conservative Tim Bowles – will have a budget of around £30 million a year to play with and his area covers Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Because of the political make-up of the area, the Liberal Democrats’ campaign was based largely around trying to persuade Labour voters in Bristol to switch sides to keep the Conservatives out.

That strategy failed and Mr Williams, who was the clear favourite to win at the start of the campaign, trailed in a distant third when the votes were counted. In fact independent John Savage was not far behind him in fourth place.

Conservative Tim Bowles received 70,300 votes, Labour’s Lesley Mansell, 65,993, and Mr Williams 39,794.

If this vote is precursor to the General Election then the Liberal Democrats’ hopes of a resurgence in the South West look to be on very shaky ground indeed.

And the result has also left Mr Williams with some thinking to do about his political future amid speculation he could stand for Parliament in the General Election.

Meanwhile, even though Labour has taken something of a kicking across the country, Ms Mansell can be justifiably proud of her performance in the mayoral election.

Inner city Bristol is something of a Labour stronghold but the surrounding areas are a traditional battleground for the Liberal Democrats and the Tories.

The odds were always stacked against Ms Mansell, so to come a close second in the election was something of a personal victory.

One of the biggest fears around the campaign was apathy from the public and all the candidates were at pains to point out the importance of the new role during the campaign.

The fact a General Election is looming probably helped to raise the profile of the election and fears of a turnout below 20 per cent turned out to be off the mark.

Just shy of 30 per cent of the electorate made the effort to get out and vote which is almost respectable when it comes to local elections.

As soon as the result came in, the Conservatives were quick to trot out the now familiar mantra of strong and stable leadership as the reason behind the victory.

It remains to be seen if the mayoral election is a fair representation of the political mood in the West Country. But if it is then the Liberal Democrats have good reason to be very nervous about 8 June.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Joshua Warwick-smith says:

    These numbers are utterly wrong. You’ve quoted first and second preference votes for Labour and Conservatives and only included first preference votes for Lib Dems’ Stephen Williams.

  2. Dean Ramsdale says:

    Totally misleading article based on a failure to understand the voting system used in the election. The actual first preference votes are the relevant figures – Con 53796 (27.3%), Lab 43627 (22.2%) and LDem 39794 (20.2%).

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