I have been striking a note of caution for a while now about the potential for the Lib Dems to rise from the ashes. Local by-election results have been seized upon by both Lib Dem supporters and detractors as proof of the party being born again – I have been less convinced. Despite the Brexit vote and the meltdown of the Labour Party, the national polls have not favoured the Lib Dems, at least not as yet. This, to me, is more indicative of where things stand for the party as opposed to local election results, which after having lost literally thousands of local seats during the course of the last parliament you would be expecting some gains to take place anyhow.
But yesterday was the Witney by-election and an interesting result for the Liberal Democrats. They came second to the Tories in what is a very safe Conservative seat, increasing their vote share from 6.8% at the 2015 general election to 30.2%. Even I cannot sneeze at that. Clearly there was something there to make people want to vote Lib Dem all of a sudden in that seat, even if was just to “send a message”.
Here’s what I think the lessons from Witney are:
1.The single market issue is easily the Lib Dems’ best policy, electorally speaking