Last week Liberal Democrat Jim Candy won the by-election to become the new Cornwall councillor for Looe West, Pelynt, Lansallos and Lanteglos. Jim's predecessor Edwina Hannaford, who passed away in February, was such a fantastic councillor that at previous elections, the other parties didn’t campaign hard against her. But on this occasion, there was a genuine three-way fight. The Conservatives wheeled out the local MP to knock on doors, but saw their vote fall from 633 to just 414.

Labour’s leaflet included a bar chart showing the Lib Dems in third, under the caption “Labour are set to win”! So the Labour activists at the count on Thursday night looked pretty shell-shocked when they realised that they had actually finished in third place!

But the result was no surprise to me. The Liberal Democrats have always won by targeting our efforts in a small number of seats, with hard working Councillors. This local work doesn’t show up in national opinion polls, even in so called “MRP” models which use poll responses from other parts of the country to imagine how votes will be cast here. 

The Liberal Democrat team in South East Cornwall knocked on thousands of doors and spoke to hundreds of voters over the past six weeks, and the response from voters was clear and consistent:

Everyone is sick of the way the Conservatives are running the country. After fourteen years of failure, they have no positive ideas for the future, and are just fighting amongst themselves over who should lead the party after they inevitably lose power. Even life-long Conservative voters told us that they wouldn’t be voting for Sunak’s party either in the Looe by-election or at the forthcoming general election.

But hardly any of these disaffected Conservative supporters said they would be voting Labour. They know that Keir Starmer will be the next Prime Minister, but have seen so many u-turns from him that they simply don’t know what Labour stands for any more. Some of them will be switching to the Reform party, but many of them have said they will be voting Liberal Democrat, because they see that on everything from fixing the NHS to standing up against Israel’s war crimes in Gaza, we have clear, consistent and principled policies. Whilst other parties practise the politics of polarisation and division, Liberal Democrats strive to build a fair, free and open society, balancing the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community.

To join our winning team, as a volunteer, a member, or even a potential Cornwall Council candidate, please visit