Yesterday, after a Gateshead Council advisory group meeting, I went back to Sandhill in Sunderland to help with the Lib Dem polling day operation in the by-election. I was the voice of caution as members got excited about the figures coming through from the knock up. We knew we had done well on the postal votes which were the majority of ballots cast. The door knocking operation had the potential to push us over into first place. I kept telling people to keep calm and not get carried away.
Labour knew they had a problem holding on to what was normally a safe seat for them. We knew that because they put out a fake Focus leaflet and had been going around the ward on Wednesday with a loud speaker car shouting about "liberal lies".
Our wildest dreams included a Lib Dem win but only with a slender majority. The cold air of reality (and it was bitterly cold in Sunderland yesterday) told me we would get close but come second. But I just did not expect the final result which went way beyond our most vivid fantasies. The Lib Dem vote increased by nearly ten fold. The final votes with last year's in brackets were:
- Stephen O'Brien (Lib Dem) 824 (90)
- Labour 458 (1229)
- UKIP 343 (579)
- Conservatives 184 (277)
- Green 23 (59)
So, it wasn't even close. Clearly a large number of people have moved over from Labour directly to the Lib Dems. And UKIP have blown their chances in the Brexit Capital of Britain.
Anyway, feel free to enjoy Sandhill By-election - the Movie! I filmed it on Thursday evening during the get-out-the-vote operation. It also includes the declaration of the result and responses to it.
And finally, congratulations to new Lib Dem Councillor, Stephen O'Brien. Well done on a bloody fantastic result.