What would success look like for the Lib Dems in the 2024 local elections?

Where are the Liberal Democrats hoping to make gains in May?

Lib Dems

Last year the Liberal Democrats celebrated local council victories after making gains in traditional Tory areas in England and taking control of 12 councils. 

In the upcoming May local elections the Lib Dems are looking to defend about 400 seats and continue to make progress in Tory ‘Blue Wall’ areas ahead of the next general election. So what would success look like in 2024 for the Lib Dems?

In 2023 the party made a 3% gain in council seats on the previous year, so will be hoping to maintain a similar trend this year. Ed Davey said the party hopes to pick up voters who feel fed up by the Tories and also those who feel ‘let down and taken for granted’ by Labour, as the Lib Dem leader launched the party’s 2024 local election campaign with an hourglass stunt, declaring “Time’s running out for Rishi Sunak”.

First on the campaign for Davey was the battleground of Harpenden in Hertfordshire, set to be a marginal constituency at the next election. In the Hertfordshire districts where all councils are seeking re-election, the Lib Dems will be hoping to build on a slim majority in Three Rivers, keep control of its strong majorities, while also hoping they don’t lose out to Labour. 

A win in Sheffield would mark a success, with Labour suffering eight candidate defections on the city council narrowing its gap ahead of the Lib Dems, making it the first time since 2010 that the party has a chance to overtake Labour in the area. 

In Essex, the Lib Dems are hoping to take full control of Brentwood FC for the first time since 2003. While in Wokingham they are only just off a majority against the Tories, as success here would provide a marker of the swaying tide of opinion in the so-called ‘blue wall’ and a bolster for the Lib Dems in the general election.

Tunbridge Wells and Wokingham also represent two Lib Dem target areas of Tory strongholds in the south-east of England, both are currently under no overall control.

The May 2 election will see all 72 seats on Tory controlled Dudley Council up for grabs and the Lib Dems are hoping to win up to nine of those. Although one councillor said winning all nine would be ‘dreamland’, they have high hopes of winning their target seats. While the Dudley Lib Dems have also made a pact to not stand in some wards this election, in a tactical progressive alliance to get the Tories out. 

Dorset has been identified as a top Liberal Democrat target, a recently formed council in what has been a Conservative-controlled area for decades. A win here would be a success for the Lib Dems, as they already won control of Devon and Somerset in 2022 and 2023 successively, so it would be another win for them in the West Country. 

Although the party are flat-lining in the polls with Reform UK rising up to challenge the Conservative Party, the Lib Dem’s popularity on a local level could help it challenge the Tories in the traditional ‘blue wall’ in the local elections, and where they provide the only viable alternative. Wins here would be a marker of success and a boost for the party in the run up to the general election.

(Image credit: Flickr)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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