The Guardian

Lib Dems in with a chance in byelection – Davey

- Heather Stewart Political editor

The Liberal Democrats are in with a chance of taking the ultra-safe Tory seat of North Shropshire, as “soft Conservati­ve” voters turn against Boris Johnson, the party leader, Ed Davey, has claimed.

The seat has been vacant since Owen Paterson resigned after being found to have broken Commons rules on paid lobbying. A byelection is being held on 16 December.

The Lib Dems’ hopes of challengin­g the Conservati­ves on their home turf were boosted after they overturned a majority of 16,000 in the Buckingham­shire seat of Chesham and Amersham earlier this year.

Winning North Shropshire would represent an even more dramatic electoral earthquake. Paterson’s majority in 2019 was almost 23,000, and the Lib Dems took just 10% of the vote, coming behind Labour. Neverthele­ss, party strategist­s point to a stronger performanc­e at last year’s local elections, where they gained seats at the expense of the Conservati­ves.

They also say detailed canvassing data is stronger than expected, putting them potentiall­y within reach of a win, particular­ly if they can persuade Labour and Green voters to back them.

“It’s tougher than Chesham and Amersham, but we’ve made a really good start, and we’ve got a really good candidate,” said Davey.

He has already made three visits to North Shropshire to support the Lib Dem candidate, Helen Morgan.

Despite the byelection having been triggered by Paterson’s disgrace, Davey said sleaze had barely come up in conversati­ons with voters.

Instead, he said, they wanted to talk about long waits for local ambulance services, the NHS – and potholes. “What we’re finding is that there’s a lot of soft Tory voters out there: much softer than we expected. There’s a feeling the Tories have taken them for granted. They’re very open to the idea of voting for us,” he said.

The Conservati­ve candidate is the Birmingham-based lawyer Neil Shastri-Hurst, an army veteran who has been supported when canvassing by the Conservati­ve co-chair, Oliver Dowden.

Labour is standing a local candidate, Ben Wood, from Oswestry – but is pouring more resources into next week’s byelection in Old Bexley and Sidcup, the seat made vacant by the death of James Brokenshir­e.

 ?? ?? ▲ Ed Davey says that voters feel the Tories have taken them for granted
▲ Ed Davey says that voters feel the Tories have taken them for granted

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