Lib Dem South West resurgence continues with by-election victory

JBP election result analysis for Somerton and Frome by-election- 20 July 2023

  • Lib Dem South West revival in full force with 29% swing, nineth biggest swing in the party’s history. 
  • Somerton and Frome is the third Lib Dem milestone win in the South West in the last two years. 
  • A combination of tactical voting, neglected local issues and Tory resentment created a yellow wave that overcame one of the Tories safest South West seats. 


Candidate name Party Votes Vote percentage 
Sarah Dyke Liberal Democrat 21,18754.60%
Faye Purbrick Conservative 10,17926.20%
Martin Dimery Green 3,94410.20%
Bruce Evans Reform UK 1,3033.40%
Neil Guild Labour 1,0092.60%
Rosie Mitchell Independent 6351.60%
Peter Richardson UKIP 2750.70%
Lorna Corke Christian Peoples Alliance 2560.70%
  Majority: 11,008Majority 28.40%
  Turnout: 38,788 Turnout 44.23%
  Swing: + 29.00%

JBP Election Results Analysis:

  • What does it mean for the Tories? Unlike last night’s other by-elections in seats all held by the Conservatives, this by-election had the lowest Conservative vote share in the seat’s history, 10% lower than another low watermark in 1997. Core Tory voter dissatisfaction with the absence of David Warburton over the last 15 months as he was out-of-post under investigation was one of the driving forces. The turnout was down 30% from 2019; many Conservative voters appear to have stayed home. So, there is no certainty that Sarah Dyke will be re-elected at next year’s general election, given that a higher turnout is inevitable. This creates an opportunity for the Tories to restore trust nationally and regain stay-at-home supporters. 

  • Where was Labour? Labour’s political ammunition was aimed elsewhere in Uxbridge and Selby. The Labour vote split between the Labour candidate Neil Guild and the Socialist Independent candidate Rosie Mitchell bumped Labour down to fifth place.

  • What does this mean for Somerset Council? WhilstSomerset Council leader Bill Revans will be celebrating the success of one of his cabinet colleagues, he will need to recruit a new Environment and Climate Change portfolio holder. Sarah Dyke is under no immediate pressure to resign, but if she wants to live up to her promises of being visible and serving her constituents in Westminster she may need to step down as a councillor soon. A by-election beckons in her local ward, Blackmoor Vale!

  • Are other Somerset Tory MPs looking over their shoulders? The last two years have boosted the Lib-Dems’ confidence in the region. The neon glare of the orange ‘winning here! has shone bright. Further targets may include constituencies including Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow MP, DEFRA Under Secretary of State), Wells ( MP James Heappey MP, Minister of State at Defence) and Yeovil ( Mark Fysh MP). All have majorities far less than the previous Conservative advantage in Somerton and Frome.

  • Lib Dem struggle ahead? The Lib-Dems traditionally fend better in by-elections than in general elections, as they can mobilise volunteers and resources to a targeted area. Instead of focusing on the other two by-elections, the Lib Dem’s went all out for Somerton and Frome. But can they maintain this momentum when contesting and defending seats on multiple fronts up and down the country? 

  • How will the boundary changes affect Somerton and Frome? Sarah Dyke’s campaign is not over, and once she has got her feet under the table in her new position, she will have to go back out on the campaign trail next year to prove herself again. Sarah Dyke will be the last Somerton and Frome MP before the 900 square metre constituency is cut in half, forming two new constituencies Glastonbury and Somerton, and Frome and East Somerset. 

The Lib-Dems have gone from footnote to front page in the last two years in Somerset, having swept control of the new unitary council. But the hard work now begins to ensure that they are ready to take back the West Country from protest vote to the party for Somerset.

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