Since 2019, a Labour-Lib Dem coalition has held control of North Hertfordshire District Council. At the 2022 Local Election, this was strengthened with Labour gaining two seats against the Tories and the LibDems doing likewise.
In North Hertfordshire District Council it have always been known which seats are targets for different political parties and a tacit agreement (whilst interrupted in 2010-2015) has existed for years. Since 2019 Labour has run a joint authority with LibDems, which has worked really, really well.
Back in November, a well loved LibDem councillor & deputy leader of the council died. By-elections were scheduled for March for his district and county seats.
At that point, the Labour Party locally was heavily tied up in selecting candidates for the wards which we needed to defend. This process was made doubly difficult due to a number of councillors standing down and selecting new candidates.
And so within a Labour Party meeting, it was accepted that the party should not stand a candidate in those seats. The general consensus was that it seemed like maximum effort for very little gain. And the by-election result was a thumping win for the LibDems which made a very marginal seat a safe one.
For the May election, the LibDems and Greens decided not to stand a candidate in a key Labour marginal. Labour tried to repeat this by not standing in a key LibDem ward. Sadly this was prevented by a last minute action by regional head office who within 48 hours of the close of nominations was able to appoint a paid employee as a candidate and they themselves arranged for signatures over the head of the local party.
Thankfully this action by Labour Eastern region didn’t stop the LibDems gaining a seat against the Tories, but it is an action that we wouldn’t want to repeat. Especially not in a general election that would decide who governs the UK through economic recovery from the current crises and mitigating the worst of climate catastrophe.
Two of the Labour victories were 4-way competitions, one with a 65 vote majority and another with just 9 votes. Another ward 5-way competition was won by a Tory by just 73 in a LibDem target ward. Labour, LibDem, and Green Party activists need to be aware that First Past the Post works against their interests, and local parties need to be given the right to use their local knowledge and contacts to stand down candidates without interference from regional office staff.
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