Helen Morgan: By-election victory transforms life of new North Shropshire MP
New MP Helen Morgan today today spoke of her shock at winning the North Shropshire by-election.
And she spoke too of the sense of excitement at getting to work for her constituents.
Ms Morgan overcame a Tory majority of more than 20,000 to take Owen Paterson’s old seat.
She was today enjoying a quiet Christmas break with husband Rob and son Ben before getting stuck into her new job.
The accountant said: “No-one could have foreseen this. When Owen Paterson resigned I was busy at work doing VAT returns.”
Ms Morgan said she and the Liberal Democrat team had hoped to gain support from the Tories but had initially hoped for a strong showing in second place.
But as time went on it became clear that the Lib Dems were gaining ground .
And on election night she received a call from a party worker to say it was looking like a comfortable victory.
She said: “I shook as I received the call and remember saying, are you sure?”
A couple of months ago Helen Morgan was the financial head of a local firm, a parish councillor, busy mum and wife who enjoyed going for a run.
Today she is coming to terms with her new role as the MP for North Shropshire, the first, non-Conservative MP to represent the area for two centuries.
The Liberal Democrat, who stood in the 2019 election, coming third, found herself at the very heart of one of the biggest political storms for years and a six-week campaign that culminated in a resounding majority of voters electing her.
And with hardly a moment to stop and take it all in, the 46-year-old is now busy gathering together a team and looking for a constituency office from where her pledge to represent every single person in North Shropshire will be based.
“I want to hit the ground running in the New Year to help everyone, regardless of who they voted for,” she said.
Ms Morgan said that after Owen Paterson resigned the five local constituency teams got together and we decided to do some canvassing on a local level.
"That first weekend we managed to deliver 20,000 leaflets," she said.
"I stood in a car park in Wem handing out leaflets to volunteers from the boot of my car.
“The reception we had made us think that maybe we could get a good result, if not a win then a close second.”
With a team from the party nationally getting on board and headquarters rented just outside Wem, Ms Morgan said things snowballed.
“It was a huge team effort with a brilliant atmosphere and we realised we were on the cusp of making real inroads into the 23,000 majority of the last election,” she said.
But she never let herself think that she could win.
“I knew I had to prepare myself to stand there as the declaration was made having lost.”
It was a telephone call to her home at 1.45am that made her realise the dream had come true.
“It was from the team at the count to say it looked as if we had not only won, we had won comfortably.
“I shook as I received the call and remember saying, are you sure? I felt like I was watching someone else – that it wasn’t me at all getting ready to head towards the count.”
“The reception I had when I arrived outside the Sports Village was so unexpected – and wonderful. My main worry was getting through the acceptance speech and once I had done that, we could start our celebrations and settling into the new role.”
Ms Morgan said there was no time to rest.
“I am, of course, giving up my job. The company has been so supportive and from the beginning told me to go ahead and stand, as I would never get such an opportunity again.”
Her new role began with a letter sent to the health minister calling for an inquiry into the ambulance crisis and talks with those rolling out Covid vaccines in Shropshire. She also took time out to get her own booster jab.
She said: “On Monday my Westminster laptop arrived by courier and I was immediately into meetings with HR to find out more about the role in Parliament. It has been good to have last week to get settled in.”
The new MP’s family have been a massive support over the last two months.
“Rob, my husband, said at the beginning his role was in keeping the home running and looking after the family. It was so good to have someone there that had not been on the campaign trail and who could keep my feet on the ground. Our son, Ben, who is 12, is used to hearing politics being talked about at home and is very engaged. He would never say it to me, but he is proud.”
She says she would never be where she is today without one of North Shropshire’s best known Liberal Democrats, John Stevens.
“It was John who encouraged me to stand for the seat in 2019,” she said. “Sadly he passed away in 2020 and my one regret is that he didn’t live to see the Liberal Democrat success in North Shropshire and me becoming the MP.”
Ms Morgan said her decision to become a Liberal Democrat was taken about 10 years ago when before a general election she sat and read each party’s manifesto.
“It was the Liberal Democrats that resonated with me with everything they said. It is too easy in politics to encourage extremism and to forget the local issues that are so important. People want to know that their MP will fight for their health services and their roads.”
“I and the family will obviously have to make adaptations to our lives, but it is very exciting and I can’t wait to start properly.”