Deeply disappointing result for my party in a Powys County Council by-election last night - at the Oldford Ward in Welshpool. Congratulations to the Lib Dem candidate, Francesca Jump who won around 230 votes. Independent, Delwyn Williams was second with around 140 votes, Another Independent, Charles Jones was third with 98 votes, and our candidate, Association Chair, Nick Bardsley came fourth with 95 votes. Mrs D and I had been out for an enjoyable supper on our wedding anniversary to the splendid Lake Vyrnwy Hotel - but this result put a bit of a damper on things.
The Lib Dem victory was no real surprise. They run their by-election campaigns very well - and the late Merv Kinsey won the ward three years ago with over 400 votes. And crucially, the Lib Dems have accepted today's reality that party politics are a part of local government. Montgomeryshire voters of the centre/right persuasion still take the view that party politics has no place in local government - and share the votes out amongst independents and us. The same is true of much of rural Wales.
May seem odd to say, but this was the best local election campaign that the Conservatives have ever fought in Montgomeryshire (at least that I can remember). I wasn't able to play much part in the planning because we were going through the process of selecting our parliamentary candidate at the same time - and I was involved personally. I'd hoped that we would have come second (if we didn't win that is) but it wasn't to be. Largely because an old friend of mine, the former Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire, Delwyn Williams stood as an independent. I suspect he bagged quite a lot of our votes.
Delwyn's been a bit down on his luck since losing his seat to Alex Carlile in 1983, but remains a popular man locally. I'm told that he's been going around telling people that he intends to stand at the next General Election as well - which would make my task of winning the seat that much more difficult. Like Bruce Lawson, another popular local man, who intends to stand as Ukip's candidate in Montgomeryshire, he will see the potential Tory vote as his most fruitful territory. Across the UK, the Lib Dems are in a mess, but they will be smiling in Montgomeryshire after last night's result.