The Liberals have won an extraordinary victory in North Shropshire by taking a lifelong Tory seat in the by-elections for the first time in 200 years.
In a shocking result, Lib Dem candidate Helen Morgan took 17,957 votes, leaving conservative Neil Shastri-Hurst with 12,032 and giving the Lib Dems a majority of 5,925 after a massive 34 percent swing.
The by-election was held after Owen Paterson resigned over allegations of sleaze after he broke lobbying rules for taking about half a million pounds from two companies and trying to influence government policy.
The seat in North Shropshire has regained a Conservative MP since 1830. It will prove a humiliating defeat for the Tories and will be viewed by many as a referendum on Boris Johnson’s leadership.
Paterson has represented the constituency since 1997 and held it in 2019 with a majority of 22,949 with 62.7 percent of the vote. Labor came in second with 22.1 percent of the vote and the Lib Dems had just 10 percent of the vote. When Ms Morgan, a chartered accountant, went to the seat in 2019, she came in third.
The constituency also voted Leave in the 2016 referendum, at odds with the Lib Dems becoming synonymous with the Remain vote.
‘Boris, the party is over’
In her victory speech, Ms Morgan said the Lib Dems attacked and won the Tories, stealing thousands of “lifetime Tories” and Labor supporters who were willing to vote for the Lib Dems to defeat the Tories.
“Tonight the people of North Shropshire have spoken on behalf of the British people,” she said. “They said loud and clear, ‘Boris Johnson, the party’s over’.”
She accused the government of “lies and blunders”. “In rural Shropshire today – as in Buckinghamshire in June – we have had the support of people who have always voted Conservative and people who have always opposed them,” she said.
“Thousands of Conservative voters, stunned by Boris Johnson’s lack of decency and tired of being taken for granted. And thousands of lifelong Labor voters, who chose to lend their vote to the candidate who can beat the Conservatives.”
Morgan accused the government of creating “a nighttime soap opera of disaster and chaos” as it recognized an NHS in Shropshire that was “shattering” and a rural economy “in a precarious state”.
She added: “Our country is crying out for leadership. Mr. Johnson, you are not a leader.”
Ms Morgan added that rather than taking action to help Shropshire’s NHS, Mr Johnson has spent his time “looking for questionable donations to refurbish your flat” and that he had spent time ” deceiving the nation about how you and your office partied during the lockdown” rather than taking action to support Shropshire farmers.
Second success for Lib Dems
The Lib Dem’s victory comes after Ed Davey’s party won the Tories’ Chesham & Amersham constituency earlier this year, beating a Conservative majority of 16,000. Sir Ed, who is in isolation at home after testing positive for Covid, posted a video below on Twitter of him celebrating before the results were announced.