Windermere, Bowness North on South Lakeland (Lib Dem Defence)
Last Local Election (2012): Lib Dem 34, Con 13, Lab 4 (Liberal Democrat majority of 17)
Result of last election in ward (2011): Lib Dem 608 (65%), Con 280 (30%), Lab 47 (5%)
It is very rare to have just a single by-election on one day and this ward in South Lakeland (which covers the Lake District) is one of only three councils in Cumbria that hold elections every year (bar county election years). The others Carlisle and Barrow in Furness are Conservative / Labour battlegrounds with South Lakeland being a Conservative / Liberal Democrat battleground and as a result has been doing perhaps a little better than the national average.
Back in 2003, when Iain Duncan Smith declared “The quiet man is going to turn up the volume”, the council was hung (Lib Dem 23, Con 18, Lab 9, Ind 2). As we know Iain Duncan Smith was unable to turn the volume up enough and was replaced by Michael Howard. Not that change of leader had much impact on the council in 2004 (Con +2, Lab -1, Lib Dem -1).
However, at the general election the following year, the Liberal Democrats sprang a surprise. Westmorland and Lonsdale (for decades a safe Conservative seat) suddenly switched to the Liberal Democrats and saw the election of Tim Farron as the MP (the first Liberal to represent a Cumbrian seat since at least the First World War).
The effect on the local Liberal Democrats was barnstorming as in the 2006 local elections they made a staggering nine gains (six from Labour, two from the Conservatives and one from the Independents) and gained control of the council (adding to their tally of Pendle, Stockport and Liverpool in the north west of England).
In 2007, they increased their majority to 16 (as well as adding Rochdale to their list of north western councils) and in 2008 reached the dizzying heights of a majority of 21 (and gained Burnley at the same time).
After a break for the 2009 county elections, it was all noses back to the grindstone for the 2010 general and local elections and whilst the general election saw Mr. Farron’s majority skyrocket (and make Westmorland a safe Lib Dem seat) and the council remain Lib Dem, they did suffer two losses.
As they did in 2011, but those were reversed in 2012. So it’s safe to assume that the Liberal Democrats must be fairly confident of holding on to this ward on the shores of Lake Windermere (but as we have seen before, big majorities on councils lead to opposition groups doing very well indeed in by-elections)