Lib Dems in with a chance in byelection – Davey
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.