The Lib Dems Have Stunned The Tories With A Shock By-Election Win In North Shropshire
The Liberal Democrats have won the North Shropshire by-election from the Tories, after a tense battle for the seat in a campaign fraught with allegations of scandals involving Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The result will pile pressure on Johnson, who is currently under fire from several different quarters of his party over his handling of the pandemic, and will prompt Westminster insiders to ask whether a leadership contest might take place within the Tory party sooner rather than later.
Liberal Democrat candidate and accountant Helen Morgan took the seat by 5,925 votes on a turnout of just over 38,000 (46.28%) – a huge swing of 34%. It had been a safe Conservative seat, with a 2019 majority of almost 23,000. Labour finished a distant third, with 3,686 votes (9.68%).
The win is Sir Ed Davey’s party's second success in a matter of months after the party took Chesham and Amersham from the Tories in another by-election held in June. They now have 13 MPs in the Commons.
Davey described the win as a "watershed moment in our politics" that offered "hope" to voters across the country. He went on: "Millions of people are fed up with Boris Johnson and his failure to provide leadership throughout the pandemic and last night the voters of North Shropshire spoke for all of them.
"From Buckinghamshire to Shropshire, lifelong Conservatives have turned to the Liberal Democrats in their droves and sent a clear message to the Prime Minister that the party is over."
Despite North Shropshire being a traditional blue seat, the constituency looked shaky for the Tories throughout the by-election campaign and had come to be seen as a referendum on Johnson's performance as leader.
The defeated Conservative candidate Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst said: "We've run a positive campaign here, I'm extremely proud of the work that everybody's done.
"Of course it's a disappointing result for us."
The campaign had been running against the backdrop of scandals involving Johnson, including allegations of a number of Christmas parties being held in Downing Street during the 2020 lockdown which are now being investigated by the Cabinet Secretary Simon Case.
Last week the Electoral Commission ruled that the Conservative Party had "failed to accurately report a donation" that paid for the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat Johnson lives in with his wife Carrie.
The Liberal Democrats were quick to seize on the alleged parties hosted by Tories in their campaigning material, using an image of an elderly women crying saying "this Christmas tell them the party's over" next to an image of the Prime Minister.
In her acceptance speech the newly elected MP, Morgan, said people in North Shropshire had spoken on behalf of the British people, and that the Conservative government "run on bluster" will be "scrutinised, challenged, and defeated".
"In rural Shropshire, just like in Buckinghamshire in June, we have won the support of the people who have always voted Conservative and people who always opposed them," she said.
"Thousands of life long Conservative voters dismayed by Boris Johnson's lack of decency and fed up with being taken for granted, and thousands of life long Labour voters chosing to lend their votes to the candidate who can defeat the Conservatives."
North Shropshire has elected Conservative MPs since the 1830s. Paterson, who also served as Northern Ireland minister, had held the seat since 1997 and steadily increaed his majority from 2,000 when he was elected to over 20,000 at the 2019 general election.The North Shropshire by-election was called following the resignation of former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who quit Parliament amid the furore surrounding his alleged lobbying for two companies – healthcare firm Randox and food manufacturer Lynn's Country Foods.
He was found to have breached Parliament's rules and was due to be suspended for 30 sitting days. An attempt to overhaul the standards system was launched by Conservative MPs in an attempt to block his punishment. This move was backed by the Prime Minister with Number 10 saying Paterson deserved the right to a fair hearing.
However, Johnson U-turned after public outcry – and considerable upset within his own party – that the standards overhaul appeared to be an attempt to change the rules for a colleauge and was tantamount to Tory "sleaze".
Paterson resigned, saying he wanted to leave the "cruel world" of politics and that the investigation had been "catastrophic" for his family. His late wife Rose, who commiitted suicide in June, is said to have been deeply troubled by the standards probe.
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