Shropshire Star

North Shropshire by-election result: Lib Dems win historic victory in blow for Boris Johnson

Voters in North Shropshire have shocked the Conservative Party, electing Lib Dem candidate Helen Morgan in an historic blow to the Government.

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Helen Morgan went walkabout in Oswestry top celebrate her historic win

The result means the Tories have lost a parliamentary election in North Shropshire for the first time in 117 years and for the first time ever since the constituency has been in its current form.

A swing of 37.2 per cent saw Mrs Morgan win with 17,957 votes while Tory candidate Neil Shastri-Hurst finished second with 12,032 and Labour's Ben Wood was third with 3,686.

The Conservatives had held a 22,949 majority thanks to Owen Paterson's seventh successive victory back in 2019.

However the by-election campaign began with a row over Tory sleaze in the wake of Mr Paterson's lobbying and went from bad to worse when allegations of lockdown rule-breaking in Downing Street emerged.

North Shropshire election results

Turnout: 46.3 per cent

  • Helen Morgan, Liberal Democrats - 17,957 (47.1 per cent)

  • Neil Shastri-Hurst, Conservative - 12,032 (31.6 per cent)

  • Ben Wood, Labour - 3,686 (9.7 per cent)

  • Duncan Kerr, Green Party - 1,738 (4.6 per cent)

  • Kirsty Walmsley, Reform UK - 1,427 (3.7 per cent)

  • Andrea Allen, Ukip - 378 (0.99 per cent)

  • Martin Daubney, The Reclaim Party - 375 (0.98 per cent)

  • Howling Laud Hope, Official Monster Raving Loony Party - 118 (0.31 per cent)

  • Suzie Akers Smith, Independent - 95 (0.25 per cent)

  • Russell Dean, The Party Party - 90 (0.24 per cent)

  • James Elliot, Heritage Party - 79 (0.21 per cent)

  • Boris Been-Bunged, Rejoin EU - 58 (0.15 per cent)

  • Earl Jesse, Freedom Alliance The Real Alternative - 57 (0.15 per cent)

  • Yolande Kenward, Independent - 3 (0.01 per cent)

The defeat will cap a torrid week that included the massive rebellion Conservative backbenchers dealt Mr Johnson on Tuesday over his new coronavirus restrictions as the Omicron variant surged.

“Tonight, the people of North Shropshire have spoken on behalf of the British people. They have said loudly and clearly, ‘Boris Johnson, the party is over’,” Mrs Morgan said in her victory speech.

“Your Government, run on lies and bluster, will be held accountable. It will be scrutinised, it will be challenged and it can and will be defeated.”

North Shropshire had returned a Tory MP in every vote since 1983, which was the constituency’s first election in its current form.

But the Brexit-backing area has been true blue, only twice voting for another colour, since the Conservative Party’s inception in 1830.

Victorious election candidate Helen Morgan at Shrewsbury Sports Village

Mr Paterson represented the constituency for 24 years until his resignation after the Prime Minister’s botched attempt to shield him from a 30-day suspension.

Mr Johnson attempted to force a Tory-led review of the rules for MPs after Mr Paterson was found to have breached lobbying rules for two companies paying him £100,000 a year.

Multiple fresh allegations of sleaze were levelled at the Tories during the row and ultimately the MP was forced to resign, saying he wanted to escape the “cruel world of politics”.

In 2019, the Tories won 62.7 per cent of the vote and held the seat with a majority of 22,949 over Labour.

Mrs Morgan came third with just 10 per cent of the vote when facing Mr Paterson in the general election.

Thursday’s defeat compounds a tumultuous period for Mr Johnson after 100 Conservatives defied the leadership to vote against the introduction of mandatory Covid health passes for entry to large venues – the biggest rebellion since he entered No 10.

Labour candidate Ben Wood arrives at the count

Asked on Wednesday if Mr Johnson would quit if North Shropshire falls, the Prime Minister’s press secretary said: “We are fighting for every vote.”

The swing to the Lib Dems was even larger than in the party’s first seizure of a former Tory stronghold since the general election.

Chesham and Amersham had been a Conservative stronghold since the constituency’s creation in 1974, but the Lib Dems seized it with a 25 per cent swing from the Tories in July.

Ms Morgan, a 46-year-old accountant who lives in the Shropshire village of Harmer Hill, will become the newest MP having beaten Mr Shastri-Hurst, a barrister based in Birmingham.

The turnout in North Shropshire was 46.3 per cent, or 38,110 voters.

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party livened up the count

It is the second by-election loss of a former Tory stronghold to the Lib Dems since the general election.

Chesham and Amersham had been a Conservative stronghold since the constituency’s creation in 1974, but the Lib Dems seized it with a 25 per cent swing from the Tories in July.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, in a statement from isolation after testing positive for Covid-19, said: “This result is a watershed moment in our politics and offers hope to people around the country that a brighter future is possible.

“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.”