Times: Lib Dems hopeful of by-election upset in Chesham & Amersham

The Times today has the headline we need ahead of Thursday’s by-election. The newspaper reports that Sarah Green, the Lib Dem candidate has 41 per cent of the vote and the Conservative candidate, Peter Fleet, 45 per cent. That is close and this long held Tory stronghold could fall to the Lib Dems. Key issues according to the Times are HS2 which is railroading through the constituency and the government’s plan to bulldoze green fields with its planning reform act.

We are almost there. A win in Chesham & Amersham would not only upset the Tory applecart. It will give our party a boost. A clear sense of winning. Delivering seats at national and local level from the growing Lib Dem surge.

Today also, City AM headlines: “Exclusive: Lib Dems and Tories neck-and-neck in Chesham and Amersham by-election poll.” It quotes Ed Davey as warning: “We are now seeing the Conservatives significantly increase their campaigning… We have seen the Prime Minister make a surprise visit and a letter from the Chancellor sent to every household in the constituency.”

Red Box, the Times political newsletter for subscribers, is a bit more sceptical of a potential Lib Dem win that the headline writers. You wouldn’t expect anything else from Red Box. It’s editor, Patrick Maguire says:

Sorry Patrick, you are not experiencing an hallucination but you are about to experience a Tory nightmare.

I haven’t got down from Shropshire to Chesham & Amersham (bad knee) but several fellow Shropshire Lib Dems have made the journey. One said:

The buzz in and around the Amersham office really was remarkable and the staff working on the by-election full time seem to have done a fantastic job organising.

In a safe Tory ward [doorsteps have] never been fought over properly so everyone is amazed at the scale of the campaign and amount of literature they’ve had. It means the “don’t let the Tories take your vote for granted” line is really resonating when they see how hard Sarah is working.

Residents were proud to say they’d already voted Lib Dem by post and embarrassed if they fessed up to being Tory. Clearly a movement is happening, momentum building and diamonds popping up everywhere.

A second Shropshire activist has a similar message:

I think our campaign has been good, concentrating on the fundamental question, lots of talking to voters and not going over the top on the literature avalanche. There is still plenty of paper but the canvassing is being done meticulously and well. The candidate is excellent.

I will try to get back there. The wavering Tories seem to want to be asked in person to switch, they have questions (which are not hard to answer), but they need to have the conversation to throw the switch.

Even the non-voters seem to want to recount why they are not voting.

Tomorrow is the last day of campaigning. You can help by turning out, donating and by phoning. And remember, social media has a wide reach wherever you live.

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Peter Martin 16th Jun '21 - 11:27am

    The Lib Dems could yet overturn the Tory applecart. If so Sarah Green will show how to do it better than I’ve read anywhere on LDV.

    Lib Dems should forget about the problems in Palestine, Brexit, a Land Value Tax, the UBI, Beveridge MkII and the other things we read on LDV. Instead it’s much more effective to concentrate on the things that really matter: like flooding in underpasses, the problems we might have with car parking, and protecting our chalk streams.

    I’m not sure how the latter will go in the North West. Does the River Mersey count as a chalk stream?


  • 7 local by elections today, normally might think two or three in favourable territory, South and South West..

  • Sorry working though the night has dislodged my date process, by elections of course tomorrow.

  • Ask the locals what they want then adopt the lot as lifelong held convictions.
    Ignore party policies. Don’t mention the EU.

  • Who needs the housing, infrastructure and fair taxation/public financing that might work towards a fairer and more equal society, as long as we can win at any cost, eh? That’s exactly the inspiring vision I joined up for.

    I am deeply concerned that the cost of an extra MP is going to be the loss of credibility in a number of policy areas that do matter to people. What exactly are we going to do with that limited ‘power’ if we promised people a load of things that are against what should be our core beliefs. We should be smart about how we apply our policies in differing localities not throwing it to the wind. If we don’t win the cost will be even bigger. It’s unnerving and disappointing.

  • Nonconformistradical 16th Jun '21 - 3:02pm

    @Doug Buist
    “We should be smart about how we apply our policies in differing localities not throwing it to the wind.”
    And one issue about housing – and infrastructure – might be ensuring it isn’t built (at least not without being future-proofed against increased heavy rainfall) in areas prone to flooding. Which takes me to Peter Martin’s casual comment above about chalk streams.

    Cast your minds back to early 2014 and some very heavy rainfall. Which, among other issues, caused mayhem in the area roughly between Croydon and the M25. Resulting from the Caterham Bourne – a chalk stream – overflowing and flooding the area.

    Chalk streams – in the right (maybe should be wrong) conditions – can become major problems. And Peter Martin – chalk isn’t a feature of north west England – most of the chalk is in East and SE England.

  • John Marriott 16th Jun '21 - 4:40pm

    @Doug Buist
    Your views, entirely, I am sure, sincerely held, sum up why the Lib Dems are struggling to be heard. By elections are about making an impression and giving minor and not so minor parties the oxygen of publicity. They can be an illogical and messy business, more show biz than politics. If the Lib Dems could pull it off, I can almost guarantee that the successful candidate will hardly get a mention in the media, no matter how good she may be or how hard she and her supporters have worked. Even a close second would be worth applauding.

    I’m quite frankly never sure whether Peter Martin is offering genuine ‘advice’ or just taking the proverbial. As, by his own admission, an unreconstructed Labour supporter, who prefers to be picking fights on LDV rather than trying to sort out his own sisters and brothers, if either of the aforementioned scenarios happen, he ought to be asking himself why it was the Lib Dems whose support increased and not Labour’s. For him, the result that will really be more revealing is surely the result in Batley and Spen.

  • Oh, dear, more a bit more disingenuousness, Mr Boddington. There’s a danger this is getting like the Maradona ‘Hand of God’ goal for Argentina against England back in the 1986 World Cup.

    The 45% to 41% figures were reported by City AM and later picked up by The Times (a lazy reporter ?). Are they from recognised polling organisations like NOP or Yougov ? Nope, they come internally from the Lib Dems.

    City AM reports : “Internal party polling shows the Lib Dems are fast closing on the Conservatives in the Chesham and Amersham by-election race, with one party analyst “confident” they can claim an upset victory. Liberal Democrat polling figures, seen by City A.M., put the party on 41 per cent and the Conservatives on 45 per cent just days before the 17 June by-election in the usually safe Tory seat.

    Sir Edward Davey ? Again City AM reports,

    “The Lib Dem Leader said that anger about HS2 and about gaps in Covid-19 economic support for the self-employed had also been big issues on the doorstep”.
    City AM reports he has visited 14 times…….. which will give plenty of doorstep opportunities to put the locals right about official party policy on HS2.

  • Brad Barrows 16th Jun '21 - 4:56pm

    I hope the Liberal Democrats can take this seat off the Tories and keep it for a generation. However, this will be entirely pointless if the Liberal Democrats repeat the error of 2010, after some future General Election, and join in a coalition with the Tories.

  • Barry Lofty 16th Jun '21 - 5:44pm

    As I have said before the chances of a Lib Dem win in Chesham and Amersham are likely remote but would It not be superb to give this abysmal government the kick up the backside their arrogance and incompetence deserve? Whatever others think it would cheer me up no end!!

  • Perhaps of more interest is the SUN news story suggesting Cons HQ think they may lose.

  • Peter Watson 16th Jun '21 - 7:09pm

    If the Conservatives lose this by-election – or even come close to losing it – what will they learn? That they need to change tack because the country (or at least, traditional Tory heartlands) is crying out for Lib Dem policies on alleviating poverty, UBI, education, etc.? Probably not, because it doesn’t sound like that is what the voters of Chesham and Amersham are being offered.
    I worry that it is more likely that the Conservatives will realise that they need to double-down on the small-c conservatism in order to avoid the Lib Dems outflanking them on that side! Opposition to change and development might even play well in their “Red Wall” seats.

  • I spent yesterday evening delivering in Amersham. It was my second trip there.
    On both occasions, I encountered lots of goodwill and very little of the frustration that comes from receiving too many Lib Dem leaflets through the letterbox. On the contrary, people said getting the leaflets was great and it was fantastic that the by-election had made people interested in politics after so many years of indifference. By the way, the people of Amersham are politer than those of London and Kent (the other places I have campaigned.)

    Sarah’s name is known and respected, and the election is clearly being fought on local issues, although several blokes of my own age who might have seemed natural Tory voters said they could not stand Johnson and would therefore vote for Sarah.

    I did not meet a single person who said they would be voting Tory or expressed affection or support for the government, but several said “you have a mountain to climb” and were obviously sceptical Sarah can pull it off although they seemed to wish her well.

    If she does it will be sensational. It is not impossible. What is certain is that we will make a massive dent in the Tory majority.

  • My experiences have been rather like John McHugo’s. Great politeness and real interest in the possibility that it might be possible for us to win the seat. However I did get some abuse in the street about the sheer volume of leaflets from us, but I think that was coming from people who had no intention of voting for us. One intriguing thing was to pick up a leaflet from Reform UK which is campaigning against lockdowns. In view of the Tory rebellion yesterday on lockdown, this candidate might strike a chord with a section of Tory voters which could then help us.

  • The Tories are 1/7 to hold the seat. It’s going to be very hard for the Lib Dems, but if you can manage to get Labour and Green voter support you may come a close second.

  • Graem Peters 17th Jun '21 - 3:02pm

    Once upon a time, even the safest of seats would generate a by-election opinion poll. Those polls would stimulate media interest and a bandwagon effect would occur. I don’t know when we last had a seat change hands at a by-election without any opinion polling. The Lib Dems may no longer have the resources to commission an opinion poll themselves, but I hope the party will not be sitting around after today wondering if they should have commissioned one.

  • See Katharine Viner has not seen fit to include anything about Chesham and Amersham on the Guardian’s web-site. 70s Socialism lives on in a semi comatose state.

  • I’d like to thank those who are campaigning in this by-election for putting in the hard work whilst the rest of us have the privilege of bickering about by-election tactics on the internet.

    I have very mixed views on HS2. In macro-environmental terms I lean towards it being a good thing, but there’s no denying that there are a lot of local challenges for ecosystems along the route. A big challenge is that the loudest anti-HS2 voices seem to be dishonest about some of the potential damage, whilst underplaying the benefits. However, it is happening and our candidate isn’t claiming she can stop that. If for some reason there were to be a vote on it in the Commons, she could and should vote against it.

    If at all possible, we should be applying pressure to minimise damage to local ecosystems and/or pushing for the best possible compensatory schemes. Easier said than done, but it is consistent with our national policy.

    I see the Tories are attempting to blackmail the electorate by sending out letters from Sunak claiming that they need a Tory MP to get funding. Is this allowed? I fear it is effective, but I’d like to think it will anger some swing voters.

  • Andrew Watson 17th Jun '21 - 5:13pm

    Alex B. The Guardian has an article on this by election from May 24th, plus an article by Polly Toynbee a few days earlier urging Labour to step down to help the Lib Dem candidate win, which attracted 600 comments.

  • HS2 had no credible business case before the pandemic. The change in working practices means that it is now a complete waste of money with well over a decade of destruction and misery to go.

    The news I get from Amersham about the election is that the residents are very angry with the deluge of duplicate Lib Dem literature they are receiving.

  • Paul Barker 17th Jun '21 - 7:13pm

    Its hard to overstate what a difficult Constituency this is for us, Yes we came second at the last Election but The Tories got more than twice as many votes as us.

    C & A was one of a handful of Constituencies where the Conservatives took more than half the Vote in 1997, the Year of The Labour landslide.

    Taking the wider area that includes C & A,s predecessor constituencies, the last time it Elected a Liberal MP was in 1923. This is Tory Heartland territory.

  • According to The Times today, “Lib Dems hope HS2 will derail Tories in Chesham and Amersham by-election”……… to which one can only say that official Lib Dem policy is to support HS2 (wrongly in my opinion)…….. but official Lb Dem campaign tactics are to pretend the opposite. When I first joined the Liberal Party back in the 1960’s integrity was regarded as part of the USP. Johnsonian disingenuity must be contagious.

    As for Paul Barker’s notions, he must be suggesting Aylesbury in 1923 (won by a mere 71 votes for ten months by a Liberal MP who later joined the Tories).

  • I have lived in Amersham for over forty years so I have views on the Lib Dem election campaign. I’m not sure if you want to hear them.

  • @ Martin Sorry, Martin,but I’m afraid I will have to respectfully disagree with you on this matter.

  • Owing to another apalling break-down of basic security (which I understand everyone was very cross about – very cross indeed! 🙂 internal polling data was also leaked at Richmond and was broadly on the nose.

    LD 47.2 (actual 49.6%)
    ‘Con’/Goldsmith 45.8 (actual 45.1)

  • Peter Watson 18th Jun '21 - 9:39am

    @Martin “Release of campaign data is vindicated by its accuracy. Another time the nay sayers will have a harder job rubbishing us.”
    Was it accurate? The “leaked” data showed Lib Dems 4% behind the Conservatives (41% vs. 45%) but the result was a massive Lib Dem win (57% vs. 36%).
    The party might well have had more accurate campaign data, but what was published looks like it was intended to motivate a dash for the finish line which accurate data might have undermined!

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