++++Helen Morgan wins North Shropshire!!!

March the brass bands. Beat the drums. Sound the trombones. Honk the horns. Dance through the streets. Silence the soothsayers, those that thought this by-election couldn’t be won.

We won this by-election and won it well. Turning a 22,949 “unassailable” vote for the Tories into a stonking win for us. A Tory majority of votes transformed into a stunning vote for the Lib Dems. A swing to us of 34%, giving us a majority of 5,925.

Helen Morgan won this by-election. The team supporting her won it. The hundreds of Lib Dem activists from around the country won it. Our national team won it. Ed Davey won it. Our MPs won it. Now they are 13 strong.

This was not just a bloody nose for Boris Johnson and the Conservatives. It was a bloody good win for the Lib Dems.

  • Lib Dems: 17,957
  • Conservatives: 12,032
  • Labour: 3,686
  • Green: 1,738
  • Reform: 1,127

We must now ensure that Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire are just the beginning. We have taken some hard knocks as a party in recent years. But now we have picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves off. We have shown that we again can be winners. Winning here. Winning everywhere.

Helen Morgan voting

Winning North Shropshire was a huge challenge for us. But it was a challenge we won. It will be a bigger challenge still to turn ‘Winning Here’ into ‘Winning Everywhere’. But the air of enthusiasm in North Shropshire has been infectious. If we have the will to win, we will win more seats.

The victory in Shropshire is a condemnation of Boris Johnson’s failures as a prime minister. It is also a failure of the former MP for North Shropshire, Owen Paterson. Not just because he had to resign but because he didn’t listen to the ordinary people of his constituency. Time and time again, people told our campaign team, “Thank you for listening – no one has tried to contact us before.”  That’s what so many of you did in recent weeks. Making contact on the doorsteps and on the phones.

This is a win for Helen Morgan. I so wish she was my MP (I live in south Shropshire not the north).

Writing on Facebook before today’s vote, Helen Morgan said:

I just want to say thank you to each and every one of you for being part of this campaign. It has been a privilege to work with the organising team who have been endlessly positive and professional, the amazing volunteers who have travelled the length and breadth of the country to help, those who have volunteered from home with phoning and mountains of clerical work, and the tireless Shropshire Lib Dems who have worked their socks off and opened their homes to welcome volunteers. Whatever happens tomorrow I’m really proud to have been part of such an incredible team effort.

Ed Davey and Helen Morgan

Unlike other political leaders, Ed Davey has been at the centre of this campaign, travelling to the constituency five times. Posing for countless selfies. Knocking on doors. And when he tested positive for Covid-19 a few days ago, he picked up the phone instead. Boris Johnson came but couldn’t remember the Tory candidate’s name. Keir Starmer did a no show.

It was a civilised campaign. The Conservative candidate, Neil Shastri-Hurst came across as a thoroughly decent man. But the fact he was from Solihull – that matters in this rural location – counted against him because he did not know the territory. He ducked questions on the partying behaviour of Boris Johnson and I don’t envy anyone batting on that brief.

Helen arrives at the count

We saw a civilised approach from Duncan Kerr, the Green Party candidate. He never could win but was gracious enough to acknowledge in recent days that the Lib Dems were on poll position. Ben Wood for Labour ran a good campaign but too often sounded schooled in what he was saying rather than speaking from the heart. He didn’t have the support that we have had. And perhaps there was an overreliance in his campaign on the 2019 results and the rising support for Labour nationally. He always claimed he was coming second. That was never on the cards.

This is not a one off win for Helen Morgan. She has shown throughout the campaign that she is sensible, listening and concerned about her constituency. Not a wild character but the sort of sensible MP dedicated to her job us Lib Dems need. That everyone needs. Despite the Tories dismissing this morning’s result as tactical voting and a protest vote, we can be confident she’ll win again.

Thanks everyone.

Turnout

The turnout was 46.3%, 38,110 of around 83,000 voters.

Campaign HQ yesterday

This turnout was quite good. It is nearly always lower in by-elections compared to general elections. A turnout of 46.3% is close to the average of 50.9% for by-elections between 1979 and 2021. When you allow for the hardened Tories who did a no show yesterday because they were appalled by their leader’s antics, the turnout can be seen as good.

Full results

* 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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35 Comments

  • David Evans 17th Dec '21 - 4:44am

    Superb result by a superb team, local people and others who came from all over the country to build a real future for a party so many tried to write off only six years ago.

    Boris Johnson is now totally damaged goods and it will probably only be a few months before the Conservatives show their usual ruthlessness and simply dump him in an attempt to get rid of the poison and pretend they are the good guys and have listened.

    Well done Helen and everyone!

  • Patricia Vincent 17th Dec '21 - 5:08am

    Very pleased at North Shropshire by-election result. Helen seems a perfect fit for the constituency – intelligent, committed, organised. I am not a Conservative, I support Labour/Liberal values. But quite frankly, I value above all else integrity.
    Boris Johnston has never behaved well in any of his political posts, his claim that he was hugely successful as Mayor of London is false, he was a disastrous Foreign Secretary, and totally disreputable as PM. Congratulations Helen. I hope you do well in your new role as Liberal MP for North Shropshire.

  • Jack Nicholls 17th Dec '21 - 7:11am

    #LibWem 🔶 ☺️

  • A stunning victory and not many people will notice council by-elections. So let’s also raise a cheer for the team in Hexham East who gained a seat from the Tories and deprived them of overall control of Northumberland County Council.

  • Fantastic result!!!!!

    Over the last few days it seemed that many Tories would ‘hold their noses’ and still vote Conservative..
    I thought it would be a close fought thing and deliberately avoided the news until I had taken the dog for his long beach walk; why spoil an enjoyable time. How wrong I was; it wasn’t even close..
    The ‘Johnson Vote’ fell by two thirds and Helen Morgan’s tripled..

    This morning’s work will tell Mr. Johnson that HIS Partying Days are over!

  • Barry Lofty 17th Dec '21 - 9:18am

    Well done and congratulations to Helen Morgan and her team and best wishes for the future, this is a heart warming victory for so many reasons.

  • John Marriott 17th Dec '21 - 9:45am

    They may have lost much since stepping into bed with Cameron’s Tories back in 2010; but there’s one thing the Lib Dems definitely have NOT lost and it is the amazing ability to win parliamentary by elections! My congratulations go to all those hardworking party members and followers, who rallied to the cause. Whatever happens in the seat at the next GE (thinking of Brecon and Radnor 2019 here), to overturn a Tory majority of over 24,000 and turn it into a Lib Dem majority of over 6,000 is a truly massive achievement of which all involved at any level can truly be proud. However, as they say, one swallow doesn’t make a summer.

    We all know that the kind of effort required in this constituency cannot possibly be replicated in a General Election so when the celebrations (COVID safe hopefully) have died down, the real question for people like me is what is Labour going to do now? We’ve had two by elections recently. In the Sidcup election, the Lib Dems clearly allowed Labour to strike the main blows. That they failed to take the seat may have been more to do with the circumstances that led up to its being contested. One wonders whether, had it taken place yesterday, those ‘gatherings’, whose possible existence came to light very recently, might have produced a different result.

    I just wonder how those Labour apologists, both on LDV and in the Guardian in particular, might now be interpreting yesterday’s result. For me, and I class myself as a centrist today, it tells me that Labour on its own cannot command a HoC majority, especially, as seems likely, the men in grey suits will soon be knocking on the door of No 10 (or should that be No11?). So come on Sir Keir, if you haven’t done it already, pick up the phone and have a heart to heart with your fellow knight of the realm. Perhaps you ought to include Ms Lucas as well.

  • Congratulations, superb result!

  • Helen Morgan’s speech was brilliant and will have cheered everyone across the country who is fed up to the back teeth with Johnson and his shower of a cabinet. (Imagine how we would have felt if it had been a narrow Tory win and how Oliver Dowden would have tried to spin that!) I’ve had messages from friends and colleagues (many of whom are not Lib Dems) expressing real delight at the result. So Ed Davey is also right that this is a sign of hope. What a great Christmas present. Fantastic work by all.

  • John Marriott 17th Dec ’21 – 9:45am……….

    Phones work both ways.. I’ve been in favour of an ‘agreement’, formal or otherwise, with Labour for years..Sadly, there is at least as much opposition to ANY co-operation from this party as from Labour (LDV posts over the years show just that)..

    BTW..I’ve just watched the BBC coverage and was disappointed with Tim Farron hogging the limelight; it looked as if he had won it..I’m not even sure if Helen was given a chance to speak?

  • Oh yes, and in case we forget, thank you Andy Boddington for your efforts to keep us informed on all matters Lib Dem here on LDV and your reporting on this over the last few weeks.

    I am so pleased that you, after great efforts for the party over so many years, have at last got a Lib Dem MP in Shropshire!

    Perhaps we can get one for John Marriott in Lincolnshire next!! 🙂

  • This was a fantastic Result in a Seat where we had no Councillors. Congratulations & thanks to everyone who helped.

    What does it tell us about the next Election – not much.
    Personally I think the most likely result in 2024 is a Labour landslide (like 1997 without Scotland) & a much bigger Libdems contingent. Hopefully Labour nationally will not waste resources on Seats we can win where they can’t but they can’t do much about Local Parties, as we saw here.

    Davey is right to play down any talk of co-operation with Labour – any talk about that actually makes it harder for Labour to stay out of our way & can put off soft Tory voters.

  • Peter Martin 17th Dec '21 - 12:56pm

    A turnout of 46.3% ……. can be seen as good.”

    So, 53.7% of the electorate did not vote at all. There was so much activity in the constituency that everyone would have known there was an election going on. Some 45,000 voters opted to stay at home or put their postal ballots in the bin.

    This can’t be good for the democratic system.

  • IMHO a very accurate resume by John Marriott and many congratulations to Helen Morgan for scaling her mountain. Great to see a numerate Cambridge historian on the Lib Dem bench….. hopefully she will bring a sense of a radical historical perspective into focus.

    Good to hear Labour and Green supporters used their common sense by lending their votes…… all acknowledged by Helen as well as by Daisy Cooper and Tim Farron (sorry, Expats, can’t agree with your comment about my friend Tim).

    Let us hope progressive social liberalism gets a new shot in the arm to put the memories of 2010-15 in the bin. I do so hope Lib Dems, Labour, Green, and yes, the SNP can talk sensibly about left of centre alternatives to the current Downing Street fiasco.

  • Peter Martin 17th Dec '21 - 1:54pm

    @ Paul Barker,

    “Personally I think the most likely result in 2024 is a Labour landslide…..”

    Possibly. I’d hope you are right but there are problems. The division in the Labour Party is simmering away but it could boil over soon. The chatter in Labour circles is that Keir Starmer wants a high profile ‘New Labour’ candidate to take on Jeremy Corbyn in Islington North. The names being mentioned are Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna. Whether either one will take up the challenge remains to be seen but as things stand the official Labour candidate will not be one Jeremy Corbyn.

    This will be disastrous for Labour. The constituency will be flooded with Labour Party members supporting different candidates! Probably those who are seen to be campaigning for Jeremy Corbyn will be threatened with expulsion.

    The Tories will have a fun time watching a civil war unfold in Labour’s ranks. Many, in the Labour Party, will be hoping that Jeremy will be content to retire to avoid the conflict. The word, though, is that he won’t. Even if he does, the Tories will still have plenty to go at. They’ll be wanting to know if voters will be voting for the Keir Starmer who was in favour of renationalising the public utilities and railways etc before he became Labour leader or the Keir Starmer who was against it afterwards. Or the Keir Starmer who was to support a £15 ph minimum wage when he stood on the picket line beforehand or the Keir Starmer who wouldn’t go anywhere near one afterwards.

    The answer is that there never was a Keir Starmer who was in favour in the first place. It was all just a fiction. The Tories will know that too but they will enjoy pretending not to.

    The only hope is for Keir Starmer to at least try to achieve party unity but I can’t see that happening.

  • Peter Martin 17th Dec ’21 – 12:56pm……….So, 53.7% of the electorate did not vote at all. There was so much activity in the constituency that everyone would have known there was an election going on. Some 45,000 voters opted to stay at home or put their postal ballots in the bin. This can’t be good for the democratic system………

    It is the democratic system; you aren’t forced to vote.. If you are dissatisfied with all/part of the party you normally support, but don’t accept enough of another party’s values, you can abstain..This party’s MPs, and MPs of other parties, often abstain without ‘crossing the floor’..

    This party has harvested the ‘anti-Johnson’ vote; the next target is to turn it into a ‘pro-LibDem’ vote.. The first step has already been taken; in a solid ‘Leave’ area the party that was most pro-remain has won (with a decent majority). As the promised benefits of ‘Brexit’ fail to appear the electorate may well be more open minded..

  • Matt (Bristol) 17th Dec '21 - 2:11pm

    Peter and expats — this article about Chesham is interesting, where the party’s hit-them-with-literature approach is characterised not just as an appeal to turn Tory voters to Lib Dem voters but also as a deliberate attempt to intimidate lukewarm Tories into abstention.

    https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/voter-suppression-lib-dem-style-chesham-and-amersham-election/

    I’ve never seen it that way when I was a Lib Dem, but its an interesting characterisation and also posssibly a reflection on how much Lib Dems have ‘gone native’ in FPTP.

  • Matt (Bristol) 17th Dec '21 - 2:14pm

    I’d still say we’re in hung parliament territory with a hankering for a small-c centrist, small-c conservative government. Starmer knows this and may benefit. The Lib Dems at local level know this but need flagship radical policies to keep activists happy. A Tory who can integrate maintaining the post-Brexit status-quo into this sort of don’t-rock-the-boat politics may profit, too.

  • Peter Martin 17th Dec '21 - 2:20pm

    @ Expats,

    It is often said that voting is compulsory in Australia. Actually it isn’t. Many, but not too many as a proportion, deliberately spoil their paper. Sometimes with an expletive or two.

    That’s a positive form of abstention which I used myself in the last Euro elections. I expressed the view that we shouldn’t be voting for a pretend Parliament.

    You might be right about Brexit. But, neither Helen Morgan nor Sarah Green agree with you. They booth steered well clear of the topic in their campaigning.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Dec '21 - 2:50pm

    An energetic and likeable new mp, congratulations to everybody there.

    The Labour voters, as with Liberal Democrats in some areas, went of its own volition or in effect, common sense, to a good progressive candidate.

    The coalition must be put aside, as with obvious New and old Labour faults.

    We must see Peter Martin here as offering some immediate worry about Labour.

    Chuka and Luciana would not re stand for Labour, as the journey for them changed, as they are in our party!

    But Labour are very divided and bitter at the farther fringes.

    We need more like Peter to embrace common sense. Clive Lewis springs to mind!

  • Peter Martin 17th Dec '21 - 6:39pm

    @ Lorenzo,

    Often what we are told to think by the establishment is passed off as “common sense”. Even when the facts don’t fit.

    These are facts for the voting in North Shropshire. Check them out if you like:

    In 2010 Lab finished 3rd, behind Lib Dems, 18.1% of the vote.

    2015 – second, 19.9%

    2017 – second, 31.1% of the vote, under the “unelectable” Corbyn. But on a platform of respecting the Brexit vote.

    2019 – second, 22.1% – despite the unprecedented anti-Corbyn campaign by the Esthablishment, and the big mistake of not respecting the Brexit vote, a Starmer led policy. But still a better vote than in 2010 and 2015.

    2021 – third, 9.7%.

    Starmer’s decision to get rid of all those lefties and give the electorate an alternative Tory party to vote for isn’t paying off quite as well as planned.

  • @Peter, those are a tiny proportion of the ‘facts’. In all cases the result was the same for Labour – they didn’t win. In all but one case, the Tories won.

    In this election, with the ‘worst’ result for Labour, the gap between the Conservative and Labour vote share was slashed …

    The traditional Tories of North Shropshire would much rather vote for us, which is why anyone hoping to add another body to the opposition benches, could see it made sense for Labour to stick to a low-key campaign and give us a better chance of winning.

    Common sense is that it’s better for Labour that we won than the Conservatives won. Common sense is that it’s better for Labour to be forward thinking enough to accept a dip in their own vote share if it meant a dip in the number of Tory MPs.

    Anyone trying to suggest that the dip in Labour’s vote share reflects badly on Starmer is either being opportunistic, or doesn’t want to hold the government to account as best we can.

  • Peter Martin 17th Dec ’21 – 12:56pm:
    So, 53.7% of the electorate did not vote at all. There was so much activity in the constituency that everyone would have known there was an election going on. Some 45,000 voters opted to stay at home or put their postal ballots in the bin.

    Another candidate that will have contributed to lower turnout is Omicron Variant of the SARS-CoV-2 Party. Not on the ballot paper, but heading for a comfortable majority all the same. He may have caused many older voters to stay at home.

    I must stop anthropomorphising viruses – they don’t like it.

  • Peter Martin 18th Dec '21 - 10:11am

    @ Fiona,

    “The traditional Tories of North Shropshire would much rather vote for us…”

    That’s true everywhere and not just in North Shropshire. It’s because you are perceived to be a respectable non-radical party of the centre right. Once you start mentioning your pet projects like introducing a UBI, rejoining the EU, or being a lot more generous to social benefit claimants you’ll find that they would rather not vote for you.

    Ed Davey is smart enough to know this. That’s why there won’t be any mention of them regardless of what resolutions you might pass at conference.

  • John Marriott 18th Dec '21 - 10:23am

    @Peter Martin
    Boy, those grapes you are peddling really are sour! Whatever you say about the Lib Dems, they certainly know how to run a by election campaign. I think they call it commitment and sincerity. Those of us who have witnessed too many false dawns in the past may come over as cynics. However, these young(ish) people keep appearing so perhaps we are missing something.

    You are right about one thing, though. It’s the centre (right of left) where most people reckon they are so that’s where I would park my tanks if I were Sir Ed. I believe that a bit of compromise would add to the Lib Dems’ appeal. So, let’s have less of the EU and UBI etc. oh, and let’s hope that the phone lines stay open between Labour and Lib Dem HQs.

  • It would be helpful to get away from the idea that most people feel themselves tied to a political party. They are capable of deciding for themselves who to vote for. I have been a party member since 1959, but that does not mean that the party in some way own my vote.
    I see no benefit at all to a third party to talk as if parties owned votes and that they are sometimes leant votes by another party. If we accept that view then we will always have similar results.
    To me the challenge for the party is to build up an enthusiastic membership, prepared to do the work needed to keep up the momentum through the serious economic problems that the country faces.
    I hope we also have realistic policies to face the economic problems, and not believe that slogans like austerity and we are all in this together are policies .

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Dec '21 - 12:50pm

    Peter

    Fiona has said enough that is common senseto mean I say less on that.

    You cannot find anything in my piece that mentions Corbyn good or not.

    You mention it as if I presume Starmer is terrific. I think he is fair to middle at best. I thought Corbyn fair to awful at best!

    I am as much a social democrat these pandemic years as a liberal, but as a Liberal Demcrat who has been a member as long or longer than as once a younger fellow, I was in the Labour party, I do nor require much to mention the real facts.

    In this country if we had a broad mainstream centre to centre left party, such as the Democrats were in the US for decades, and are to some extent, now on many issues in most areas, we would, with a change of system for elections, have a centre to centre left govt often or mostly, certainly not a centre right or right wing populist shambolic one!

    If we cannot talk pacts or deals it is due to over one hundred years of divisive populist leftist posturing in industrial areas like Liverpool and Sheffield, where Labour are lousy, and the overly hard stance of New Labour, overly soft of Liberals.

    You cannot keep us quiet on basic income, or better treatment for those in need. It is this party whose members do not need a union or govt or group, to tell us what to do and how to do it on justice issues.

    Labour under your admired Corbyn, had no increase in benefits and no basic income, nor woulkd they under the, in my view, rifght wing, on those issues, Rachel Reeves!

  • Denis Loretto 18th Dec '21 - 5:46pm

    The lesson from both Sidcup and Shropshire is that formal deals between “progressive” parties are unnecessary and potentially counter-productive. The message is at last getting across to the voting public themselves that getting their preferred result under FPTP means supporting the candidate most likely to defeat the candidate (or incumbent) they don’t want to win. All that is needed is sensible action by parties to concentrate their efforts on seats they can win. Chris Rennard had the right idea.

  • Congratulations to Helen Morgan and all those who worked on the campaign! That was certainly an astounding result – not just taking the seat, but ending up with quite a respectable majority.

    The contrast between Shropshire North/Chesham and Amersham and the results in those by-elections this year where Labour was in contention are very obvious: It does seem that there are a lot of Tory voters who are willing to switch to the LibDems, but not willing to switch to Labour. I rather agree with @Peter Martin to the extent that if the LibDems want to keep these seats – especially Brexit-voting Shropshire North, then that requires some effort to represent the views of those areas – and that definitely means (amongst other things) not trying to fight the EU referendum over again at the next general election!

  • Others have already said everyting I was going to about the result, but as an aside….
    Is the 3 votes for Yolande Kenward a by-election low? It is 7 votes less than the number of nominations required to stand, and only just above the tally polled by Kevin Phillips-Bong (slightly silly) in the Monty Python sketch!

  • nvelope2003 24th Dec '21 - 1:25pm

    Simon R: As North Shropshire was a strong Brexit supporting seat it might have been expected that unhappy Tories might have voted for the Reform Party, UKIP or Reclaim but those parties polled very poorly so what does that tell us about present support for leaving the EU ?

  • Alex Macfie 24th Dec '21 - 5:59pm

    Simon R: The ones who are trying to refight the EU referendum are the people who seek to frame any and all criticism of this government’s Brexit as disrespectful to the referendum result. What matters to voters is the real-world consequences of government policy NOW, and the fact that this policy stems from an advisory referendum run 5½ years ago is irrelevant.

  • @nvelope2003: My understanding is that Europe and Brexit simply weren’t issues in Shropshire North, with the LibDems (very sensibly) barely mentioning those topics. Therefore, people who were angry with the Tories over sleaze voted LibDem as a party campaigning on local issues that was well placed to get the Tories out. I would imagine that if the LibDems had tried to make Europe/Brexit an issue in the by-election, the result would have been very different.

    @Alex Macfie. Nothing wrong with criticising what the Tories are doing in terms of trade deals etc., as long as you’re doing it from a place of accepting the UK is out of the EU and seeking to make the best of that, and not using criticism of the Tories as a proxy for criticism of Brexit itself. It seems pretty obvious to me that using criticism of the Tories as a proxy for criticism of Brexit is exactly what many LibDems are doing – and I’m pretty sure the voters will see right through that if the LibDems try it in a general election. Hence why the party needs to be very careful on this issue.

  • Simon R: You assume that the public will still care about the result of the 2016 Referendum. If criticism of Brexit is to be out of bounds, then that can only be because of a continued attachment to the referendum. Moving on from it means that all options are open, and the referendum result is irrelevant.

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