Local elections see Lib Dems take control of Somerset Council in significant hit to Tory 'blue wall'

  • 'They like our passion' - Lib Dem councillors Dawn Johnson and Habib Farbahi react to Somerset win

For years the Liberal Democrats have insisted the West Country is its heartland, but with very few reasons to actually believe that.

But the party has now taken control of Somerset Council in a significant hit at the so-called 'blue wall' if Tory dominance in the south if England.

After the 2015 general election the Lib Dems has struggled to win back voters after losing key Westminster constituencies like Taunton Dean, Wells, Yeovil and Cheltenham - but today's local election results suggest that is changing.

In Cheltenham half of seats were up for grabs and the Lib Dems were in control going into polling day so it is no surprise that they kept the council. However it is the result in Somerset which is particularly devastating for the Conservatives.

The Tories have been privately saying for weeks that Somerset was looking tricky, but the Lib Dems gaining the council will send shock waves through South West Conservatives and in turn out more pressure on Boris Johnson.

  • Ed Davey, Leader of the Liberal Democrats said the victory was a "historic moment"

Of course party-gate and national issues will have come into some voters mind when they decided how to vote, however many South West Conservatives fear the party is too focussed on "levelling-up" the north and in turn could be accused of turning its back on the South West - that's always denied by ministers.

Going into the 2015 general election the Lib Dems had 14 MPs across the West Country - and they lost all of those seats (only winning one back in 2017 - Bath). It means Conservative MPs elected in places like Taunton, North Devon, Wells, Cheltenham and Somerton and Frome always have a nervous eye on the Lib Dems.

The win in Somerset - described as part of a "political earthquake" by Lib Dem leader Ed Davey - will boost confidence of the Lib Dems and they will look to expand their support across other areas of the region.

The extra fear for the Conservatives is the upcoming Tiverton and Honiton by-election which has been sparked by the resignation of Neil Parish who twice watched porn in the Commons.

The Lib Dems are the likely challengers there and will take confidence from their success in Somerset and hope it will spread across the Devon border.

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