The Tories and Lib Dems are both claiming they face a tight race as voters go to the polls in the Amersham and Chesham by-election tomorrow
The Conservative safe-seat has been in Tory hands since 1974, but the Liberal Democrats have claimed this week that their own internal polling shows they are within just a few percentage points of victory.
The by-election follows the death of Dame Cheryl Gillan on 4 April at the age of 68 after a long illness.
A Lib Dem source told PoliticsHome they believe it’s “neck and neck” and it will “go down to the wire” ahead of polling stations opening at 7am.
The Conservatives seemed sceptical about the Lib Dems’ research, however. “The reliability of Lib Dem statistics is well known,” a Tory source said.
But they struck a cautious tone nonetheless. “By-elections are always difficult for the governing party, not least one eleven years into office, and we’re taking nothing for granted and fighting for every vote,” the source said.
Labour polled third at the 2019 general election and for this by-election, candidate Natasa Pantelic, a former teacher, had several members of the party’s shadow cabinet out knocking on doors in the leafy commuter belt seat.
“The Liberal Democrats want people to believe they’re a progressive option – but they’ve just formed a deal with the Conservatives on the London Assembly and the Greens have done the same,” Pantelic said.
“Residents have told me the Conservatives are not listening and they have failed to deliver on their promises.”
This campaign has been largely dominated by HS2, which will carve its way through the patch. The Green party’s candidate Carolyn Culver, said the race effectively turned into a referendum on the high speed line and is a chance to make Westminster aware one again just how controversial the project remains in their part of Buckinghamshire.
The Tory candidate is Peter Fleet, a businessman says he would try and minimise disruption from HS2.
Internal party polling carried out by the Lib Dems put the party on 41% to the Tories’ 45%. At the 2019 General Election, the Tories took a 55.4% of the vote to the Lib Dems’ 26.3%.
“The Conservatives could be in for a shock,” a Lib Dem source said.
Despite Lib Dem confidence, they are contending with a Tory majority of 16,223 and the fact Boris Johnson’s party have taken more than 50% of the vote in every election since the 1970s.
Sir Ed Davey’s Lib Dems believe their candidate Sarah Green is gaining a bounce on the back of Amersham Town Council turning yellow at the May local elections.
The party also claims voters have told them of their anger about HS2 and the poor deal they feel self-employed people got in terms of economic help during the Covid-19 pandemic.
James Lillis, Lib Dem head of campaigns and elections, claimed in an email to colleagues that “we have seen the Labour and Green vote drop considerably throughout the campaign”. They also hope to pick up votes from disgruntled Tories who think too much attention has been paid by the party to the “red-wall” over the leafy shires.
In a sign of how determined the Lib Dems are to win the seat, their leader Sir Ed has visited more than fourteen times.
A win would take their tally of MPs in the Commons to 12.
Other candidates are: Alex Wilson from Reform UK, Brendan Donnelly for Rejoin EU, Carla Gregory for the Breakthrough Party, Adrian Oliver for the Freedom Alliance.