Ed Davey on historic North Shropshire win and Keir Starmer pact

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey spoke to BBC reporter Justin Webb earlier this morning. He said he was proud of our party and our campaigners. We have brought hope to the whole nation by proving the Conservatives can be beaten anywhere. Brexit was not an issue in the by-election. Voters were more concerned about ambulances and GPs.

Ed is cool on a pact with Keir Starmer for the next general election but confident that we can make more inroads into the Blue Wall.

Here is the transcript.

Ed Davey.

This is a watershed moment in British politics. It was a spectacular result and I couldn’t be more delighted for Helen Morgan, our new Liberal Democrat MP for North Shropshire. And I’m just so proud of our party, our campaigners.

I think we brought hope to the whole nation. We’ve now at this year beaten the Conservatives in two of their safest seats with the previous by-election in blue Buckinghamshire at Chesham and Amersham. The Liberal Democrats have proven the Conservatives can be beaten anywhere. And I think people are so fed up with Boris Johnson, so fed up with his incompetence and his behaviour.

Justin Webb.

You say beaten anywhere. This this particular seat was a Brexit seat, a heavily Brexit supporting seat. What is the significance of the Liberal Democrats winning there?

Ed Davey.

Well, I think voters have moved on. They were focusing when I was talking to them about the underfunding of key health services like ambulances and GPs. I went five times to North Shropshire in ten days canvassing. People were really clear it was the health service. It was the rising cost of living. And these are people who who’ve played by the rules who used to vote Conservative.

Justin Webb.

Does that mean that Brexit is over as a kind of dividing thing in British politics?

Ed Davey.

It certainly wasn’t an issue in this election. I talked after our Chesham and Amersham victory about the Blue Wall. And this is another type of Blue Wall. The Tory Heartlands falling to the Liberal Democrats as we campaign on the issues that matter to local community that when we were in Chesham and Amersham, Buckinghamshire it was local planning, local development and the feeling the Conservatives had taken people in Chesham and Amersham for granted. After our victory the Conservatives had to rethink their views on planning. And then we’ve been building up in seats Chesham and Amersham which I called the blue wall seats. We’ve now got some amazing candidates in our target seats for Guilford to Eastbourne and from Cheltenham to Wimbledon. And now in North Shropshire we had this historic victory.

Justin Webb.

Taking of target seats and turning to Labour and specifically I suppose to your relationship with Keir Starmer. Is it time now for you and Keir Starmer to have a proper chat about what happens at the next general election?

Ed Davey.

I’ll just take you back to the two by election victories we’ve had this year in Chesham and Amersham and now in North Shropshire. There was no pact. No deal. Voters can work this sort of thing out for themselves. And I’m sure there were lots of Labour voters who voted tactically for Helen Morgan and the Liberal Democrats last night. And that’s just what voters want to do. It is their democracy.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Peter Martin 17th Dec '21 - 12:33pm

    Congratulations to the Lib Dems for winning in North Shropshire. You do seem to have discovered a winning by-election formula in some Tory seats. This involves being ultra local in your sales pitch almost to the level of running a campaign for election to the local council. It’s not, for instance, that we need a better ambulance service nationally, just in North Shropshire. Helen Morgan was, for example, heavily promoted as the ‘local’ candidate rather than someone who came from such an alien place as Birmingham. She said in her acceptance speech:

    “My priorities are your priorities: Improving our local ambulance service, GPs and hospitals………..As your MP, I promise I will work for you and only you. I will always put local people and our communities first. ”

    In other words telling the voters what they want to hear but with little or no mention of important national issues. No mention of Brexit or the EU for starters!

    This won’t work in the next general election. A little discussed stat is that 55% of the electorate did not vote at all yesterday. This was despite Lib Dems flooding the constituency with volunteers. Even the most apolitical would have been aware that something was going on. More Tory supporters registered their displeasure by abstaining rather than switching to the Lib Dems. They will be back in two or three years time. We might see the back of Boris Johnson sooner than that but not the Tory government.

  • Peter Martin:
    This happened in the 1990’s, huge by election wins which laid the foundation for the 1997, 2001 and 2005 General Elections when the party soared to 47 seats, 51 and 62 seats, think I have the figures right. Without the Co-alition that progress might have continued.

  • Barry Lofty 17th Dec '21 - 1:14pm

    Peter Martin @ Whatever happens in the immediate or distant future you cannot take the shine of this result, it was pretty phenomenal to say the least and I for one am delighted for all involved with this achievement. Yes a lot depends on how Helen Morgan represents her constituents but all the signs are that she will do a fantastic job and I wish her well, after all that is what the people of North Staffordshire are desperate for by all accounts!

  • Laurence Cox 17th Dec '21 - 1:42pm

    A great result, illustrating that we don’t need a formal pact with Labour (although we may still want one with the Greens (and Plaid Cymru in Wales)), just an understanding amongst the leaderships of the two parties that not campaigning hard in a seat is a sufficient signal to the voters who want to vote tactically to get the Tories out.

    @Peter Martin
    Even if we don’t hang on to North Shropshire in the next GE, there will be plenty of other Tory marginals we can win; while Diana Maddock lost Christchurch back to the Tories in 1997, we still more than doubled our number of seats in that GE.

  • Barry Lofty 17th Dec '21 - 1:42pm

    Sorry North Shropshire???

  • Andy Boddington 17th Dec '21 - 2:01pm

    @Peter Martin I am sorry that you have not got a grasp on the issues in this by-election. Almost no-one spoke on the doorstep about the EU or Brexit. On farms, they talked about trade deals not membership of the EU. It is insulting that you say we told people what they want to hear. We talked about their concerns. Politicians listening to people and knowing the local issues, talk about those issues. National issues were also covered but the voters in North Shropshire wanted to hear about how national and international matters affected them locally.

    It is easy to criticise from the outside as someone who obviously does not support the Lib Dems. If you think you can do better, get out on the streets. Knock on doors. Do something constructive. This was a great win. There will be more wins to come despite your scepticism.

  • Geoffrey Dron 17th Dec '21 - 2:14pm

    Having a weak leader at this time of crisis for Europe


    is disastrous.

    A Starmer-led government with LibDem support is infinitely preferable to the current bunch of weasels in a sack. If Europe must go to war, which it may have to as Putin’s demands deserve a peremptory response ending in ‘off’, let it be under strong leadership, which BoJo can’t provide.

  • Michael Cole 17th Dec '21 - 2:14pm

    Given the (welcome) preponderance of women MPs in our Parliamentary team, it it now appropriate to consider all-male shortlists ?

  • Nonconformistradical 17th Dec '21 - 2:55pm

    @Michael Cole
    “is it now appropriate to consider all-male shortlists ?”

    Or is it time to put all-women shortlists aside?

  • @Michael. I’m not sure if you have your tongue firmly in your cheek or not, but just in case you are being serious, you can rest easy that of the eight PPC already selected for our top target seats, six of them are men.

    When Helen was selected for the by-election, someone was concerned that it showed that the men were struggling to get selected, but as you’ll see from this list – it’s not the case. The men are dominating the selection process without the need for special favours (beyond the existing societal sexism).

  • Chris Moore 17th Dec '21 - 3:42pm

    A better ambulance service is definitely needed in West Sussex where my mother lives.

    She dislocated her hip at night and had to wait for 6 hours for an ambulance in agony. The para-medics told my sister to make an official complaint, as they were totally overwhelmed and under-staffed.

    I’ve heard many similar stories from other parts of Britain. So it’s definitely not only Shropshire, Peter.

    Well done on a thumping victory concentrating on bread and butter issues.

    With our insistence on alienating once loyal liberal-minded Euro-sceptic voters and moderate Remainers by not accepting the Referendum result, we melted down to our core in 2019. North Shropshire shows the way back.

    Thanks Andy for keeping us all updated about developments.

  • John Bicknell 17th Dec '21 - 4:13pm

    In a couple of interviews Ed has mentioned that Cheltenham is one of the seats where a candidate has been selected, but it isn’t on the official list. Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue, or maybe this was in advance of an imminent confirmation?

  • Michael Cole 17th Dec '21 - 5:33pm

    Dear Nonconformistradical and Fiona,

    Yes, the tongue is firmly in cheek.

    But what a stunning and inspiring result !

  • John Bicknell 17th Dec '21 - 6:55pm

    Martin: I am aware of Max Wilkinson’s contributions to this site, and hope that he puts himself forward to continue his efforts to recover the Cheltenham seat.
    The list, of which you seem to be unaware, can be seen here:

  • Geoffrey Dron 17th Dec '21 - 8:44pm

    Who is better prospect for Southend West? It might be difficult to persuade Labour to go easy here but I suspect LibDems have the momentum.

    I’d like to see both Labour and LibDems issue statements on the gathering crisis in E Europe. Regrettably, I’m always dubious about LibDem resolve in foreign policy. Starmer looks better than Davey.

  • We won this on the basis of what the constituents were concerned about, a mixture of explicit local issues combined with bad feelings about the nature of the current national government. I also heard some critical comments from a couple of Conservative voters about Owen Paterson being a bad constituency MP. Someone has pointed out that Helen could not get elected to the Shropshire Council, which I think shows how issues of the day, particular circumstances and feelings now play an increasing part in how people vote. That means that any talks between Ed and Keir must not try to make hasty decisions but spearhead some advanced thinking about how to handle the next GE where each constituency is examined carefully. Voters do not like wholesale simple national alliances, which means more or less we all stand a candidate everywhere but take a very nuanced approach to how and to what extent, each party campaigns in particular places.

  • James Fowler 18th Dec '21 - 9:06am

    What a fantastic result by a margin far above anything expected.

    Nevertheless, Peter Martin’s comments are worth considering for the longer term. We know where the 659 by-elections strategy leads because we went through that cycle before. Theakes celebrates the 46, 52, 62 and 57 MPs we had 1997-2010 resulting from running the Party brand as a kind of open franchise at the constituency level. The coalition is mourned because collision with government inevitably blew apart the patchwork of faute de mieux, conditional support that got us there in the first place. It’s no use saying that it would be different next time if we were in coalition with nice Labour rather than evil Tories. This will happen every time we enter government if our MPs stand on the shifting sand of localised oppositionalism.

  • William Townsend 18th Dec '21 - 9:30am

    I hope we do not go down the road of formal agreements with Labour to support tactical voting. The major national parties should always stand a candidate in 100% of seats. A common sense approached like that taken by Paddy Ashdown works. The voters are not fools and as long as parties spend their resources in the right seats it will work. A formal agreement where parties stand down to give a single party a free run has the potential to alienate voters by removing choice. On the EU I hope we do not try and include a policy committing the UK to re-join the EU, all that will do is fire up the Brexit debate at a time when the public are so not wanting to. And I am a remainer and hope that the time will come when that conversation can take place.

  • John Bicknell / Martin – Cheltenham has not yet selected a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate. The process is currently underway in accordance with the Party’s strict rules, and a full and open selection contest is being held.

    As current local Party Chair I am carefully neutral in everything I say about it, but I have no doubt our local members will select an excellent Lib Dem candidate who will be Cheltenham’s next MP.

  • Geoffrey Dron: I am currently having a discussion witrh Sarah Bedford about this very issue, yes our original decision has been superceded by events, corruption, sleaze, probable war in the Ukraine etc, believe the public will be astonished if there is not a PROPER by election at Southend.

  • Peter Martin 18th Dec '21 - 3:50pm

    @ Andy Boddington,

    “We talked about their concerns. Politicians listening to people and knowing the local issues, talk about those issues.”

    Politicians across the political spectrum will say the same thing. But they should be saying different things to the electors according to where they stand. Elections shouldn’t just be about who can best listen to local voters. It should be two way conversation. If Lib Dems pass conference resolutions and incorporate policies on such matters as the Covid policies, UBI, LBGTQ rights, and rejoining the EU then they should have something to say to the electors about those matters too.

    Did Helen explain to voters that LibDems were largely against Plan B implementation for example? If the good voters in North Shropshire are anything like the voters in my consitituency they won’t agree with that line. They be more likely to be saying that NHS cover should be withdrawn for those who put everyone else at risk by refusing to be vaccinated.

    I particularly disagree with the comment “As your MP, I promise I will work for you and only you.” The level of ambulance cover, for example, for North Shropshire won’t be much different from in neighbouring constituencies. If there’s a problem in North Shropshire there will be a problem elsewhere too. The boundaries of different ambulance services don’t correspond to constituency boundaries. Helen Morgan needs to look at the bigger picture.

  • Cheltenham is in the process of selecting its candidate. No seat has a candidate until they have been selected by members of the local party, and although a particular person may look as though they are, or ought to be, the candidate, or have even been appointed as parliamentary spokesperson by the local party exec, nothing is certain until the selection is complete. Campaigns is co-ordinating the formal announcement of each selected target seat candidate rather than letting the candidate or local party do it immediately themselves – as they say: ‘The things that convince local party members to select them are not necessarily the things that will convince voter to vote for them’. It’s about the right messages to the right people at the right time.

    (And by the way, we had to abandon any idea of all-women shortlists the moment the proportion of women MPs went above 50% at the 2019 general election. It immediately became illegal.)

  • George Thomas 18th Dec '21 - 11:22pm

    Now that this seat is won it’s surely time to stop it being a referendum on Boris and highlight that Tories as a whole are still willing to accept disregard for public decency, a lurch towards a more authoritatian government with attacks on any possible opposition and good deals for good mates rather than good deals for the public just as long they don’t have to worry about collectively responding to covid or anything else.

    Boris Johnson is a bad Prime Minister because he once described The Telegraph as his real boss. Tories can replace him if they want but next Conservative up will still see The Telegraph (or Spectator) as their real boss and that’s why the UK is crumbling rather than anything Boris has done/could do.

  • Andy Boddington 19th Dec '21 - 3:36am

    @Peter Martin This comment is an ill informed and undeserved attack on Helen Morgan.

    “The level of ambulance cover, for example, for North Shropshire won’t be much different from in neighbouring constituencies. If there’s a problem in North Shropshire there will be a problem elsewhere too.”

    There was no excuse for you getting this wrong as the data is here on LDV.

    Tracy Huffer set out the ambulance wait times, which was the issue in the campaign not the level of ambulance cover, a week ago.
    Tracey said:

    “Nearly two-thirds of 999 ambulances must wait for 30 minutes or more to hand over patients outside the county’s two A&Es… Ambulance waiting times are a national problem. But it is much worse here and that is why it is such a major issue in the North Shropshire by-election. Let me put this in perspective. Across the six NHS trusts that neighbour Shropshire, around one third of handovers from ambulances were delayed by 30 minutes or more (35%). That’s around half the delays experienced at Shropshire’s hospitals, despite some trusts using the same ambulance service (WMAS). Across England, delays are 23%. Looking back one year, delays in Shropshire were “just” 28%, two-fifths of what they are now.”

    I hope you will now apologise to Helen who, like those that worked for her victory, knew her facts.

  • Peter Martin 19th Dec '21 - 10:11am

    @ Andy,

    Disagreement is part and parcel of the democratic process. My own family and friends nearly always disagree on some issues. That’s entirely normal. This doesn’t mean we are ‘attacking’ each other!

    The figures you’re showing, for Shropshire as a whole and not the North Shropshire constituency, are just underlining my point. I don’t know how many constituencies there are in Shropshire (maybe you can tell me?) but even if there are only two it’s not entirely a local issue.

  • Andy Boddington 19th Dec '21 - 11:13am

    @Peter Martin This comment shows you are criticising without doing any research or basic reading. There are five constituencies in the historic county. The primary hospitals for all five constituencies are run by SaTH as Tracey said. There is no breakdown of delays at SaTH by constituency. But, and again you can read this here on LDV, there are much bigger delays for WMAS ambulances in Shropshire at SaTH than there are for other hospitals across region and country, even those also served by WMAS. Only Bath was worse. If you had been here, if you had the read the daily coverage of the ambulance crisis, you had listened to Shropshire’s local radio, if you had knocked on doors or even raised a glass in a pub in the constituency, you would know why this is the top issue in North Shropshire and across the county.

  • Jason Connor 19th Dec '21 - 12:07pm

    Can anyone post a link to the full election count announcing the results for all the parties standing and including Helen’s speech? There are bits online but I can’t seem to find the announcement in full. I really liked Helen’s speech and don’t see the problem with “As your MP, I promise I will work for you and only you.” Surely that’s what a good constituency MP would do, shame my local Labour one doesn’t.

  • Andy Boddington is right to ask for informed research on detailed matters such as the state of the Ambulance Service in Shropshire.

    I wonder if he is able to further assist by explaining what impact, if any, provisions to allow privatisation of the Ambulance Service in the 2012 Health & Social Care Act has been on the service in Shropshire. I know in Worcestershire the pursuit of a privatised ambulance provider by West Midlands Ambulance Service has caused much distress and dissatisfaction.

    The Kings Fund has a very well informed commentary (available on downloadable PDF) ” Never Again? The story of the Health and Social Care Act, 2012.” written by Nicholas Timmins,, former public policy editor of the Financial Times.

  • Andy Boddington 19th Dec '21 - 1:09pm

    Privatisation has had no impact on blue light services. Non urgent ambulance transport for patients who cannot use their own vehicle (if they have one), for whom public transport is impossible or impractical, or cannot get access to our overwhelmed community transport, are carried by private taxis or ambulances at the cost of the NHS. Those that have money in the bank travel to the hospitals for non-urgent appointments by taxi. If you get a deal, you can do a two way journey for £60 or so. But some quotes are £100. A lot of people use friends as a taxi service as I do. It is not ideal but our biggest problem is that it can take four hours or more if you fall on the pavement for an ambulance to arrive. Blue lighting takes maybe 40 minutes to the nearest A&Es. But once there, two-thirds of ambulances wait 30 minutes or more before they can transfer patients to hospital staff. People in Shropshire have died waiting for ambulances and even waiting for handover to A&E.

  • Hi,
    Been to share foundation podcast lecture:

    Imagine a world in which everyone has a stake in the great tech firms that serve them each day, and where dividends are gradually replacing wages to provide regular income for everyone, as work becomes scarcer as a result of automation? Imagine a world where every young person not only has a small inheritance with which to start their adult life, but also the opportunity to build its value by learning life skills?


    This could be a focus of Liberal democrat policy.
    What do you think ?

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