‘Boris Johnson, the party is over’, says Helen Morgan after her North Shropshire win
A senior Tory MP has warned Boris Johnson he has just “one more strike” before the party considers ousting him, after the Liberal Democrats defeated the Conservatives to win the North Shropshire by-election with a 5,925 majority.
Helen Morgan – who came third with just 10 per cent of the vote in the same seat in the 2019 general election – won with 17,957 votes, while her Tory rival Neil Shastri-Hurst’s scored 12,032. It comes just two years after the Tories won the seat with a 23,000 majority.
Asked for his reaction this morning, Sir Roger Gale said voters had “sent a very clear message to Downing Street” and that the PM was in “last orders time”. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We got rid of a good prime minister [Theresa May] to install Boris Johnson and he has to prove he’s a good leader, right now he isn’t doing that.”
Mr Johnson will no doubt be looking on at the result with some concern, just days after his authority was challenged when almost 100 Tory rebels voted against measures in his newly-enacted Covid ‘plan B’.
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How Lib Dem’s newest MP used local pull to secure victory
Three things about Helen Morgan perhaps had national cut-through during the North Shropshire by-election.
Unfortunately for the seat’s Liberal Democrat candidate, all of those were historic social media posts. Three times in the last couple of years, the 46-year-old has compared the Conservatives to Nazis: Priti Patel to Goebbels, Boris Johnson to Hitler and Tory party policy to that which led to Auschwitz.
“It’s not been helpful,” one Lib Dem activist told The Independent shortly after the missives surfaced. “We’re trying to flip 23,000 Conservative voters and you don’t do that by effectively telling them they’re Nazi supporters.”
Morgan apologised, moved on and refused to be derailed, our north of England correspondent Colin Drury reports. And, in doing so, perhaps showed the steely focus – as well as the willingness to admit a mistake – that led to one of the most astonishing moments in British political history on Friday morning: her victory over the Tories here.
Sam Hancock17 December 2021 08:12
Tory chairman insists PM still an ‘electoral asset’
More from Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden now, after he insisted Boris Johnson remained an “electoral asset” for the Tories.
“Yes, I think the prime minister is an electoral asset for the Conservative Party, and I’ll tell you why,” he told Sky News.
“Just take the three really big calls we’ve faced. Get Brexit done: he’s delivered on it. We’ve delivered the fastest booster programme in the world twice over and we’ve seen the economy through this terrible period, with unemployment lower than when we entered.
“So I think actually, on the big calls, the prime minister has the vision and the direction to get us through this difficult period.”
Sam Hancock17 December 2021 08:04
Voters ‘gave us a kicking’, Dowden admits – before slamming Labour
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden has admitted the party’s North Shropshire loss shows voters are “fed up”.
“They gave us a kicking … and I think they wanted to send us a message, and I want to say to them as chairman of the party that we’ve heard that loud and clear,” he told Sky News this morning.
He went on to say the party must now “get on with the job”, citing the Covid vaccine booster campaign as evidence of the work ministers are doing to remedy current frustrations.
Unsurprisingly, Mr Dowden also used the opportunity to criticise Labour’s performance at the polls. “In a by-election like this, you’d expect the opposition to be surging – and be in a strong second position – but instead they are sinking.”
Sir Keir Starmer’s party got 9.7 per cent of the vote overall, compared with the Conservatives’ 31.6 per cent and the Lib Dems’ winning 47.2 per cent.
Sam Hancock17 December 2021 07:41
‘One more strike and he’s out,’ senior Tory says about PM
A senior Tory MP has said the party lost their formerly safe North Shropshire seat because voters wanted to “send a very clear message to Downing Street”.
“They are dissatisfied with the management,” Sir Roger Gale told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Asked if they were also unhappy with Boris Johnson, Sir Roger responded that the incident should be seen as a “referendum” on the PM’s leadership.
“He’s had two strikes already – one more and he’s out,” he said.
Citing the Conservative Party’s reputation for “taking no prisoners” when it comes to its leadership, Sir Roger said: “We got rid of a good prime minister [Theresa May] to install Boris Johnson and he has to prove he’s a good leader, right now he isn’t doing that.”
Elaborating on when he believes issued with Mr Johnson’s premiership began, Sir Roger said the issues “go back to the Barnard Castle scandal, involving former senior aide Dominic Cummings.
“I’ve been dissatisfied [with government] ever since and [this vote] shows that the prime minister and the people around him are not necessarily the right ones to lead.”
Sam Hancock17 December 2021 07:33
‘Govt not in control of itself, let alone country,’ Labour says after result
More from Jonathan Reynolds now, who used his appearance on BBC Breakfast to stress that the North Shropshire by-election result was a “terrible” outcome for the Tories.
“It’s clearly a terrible result for Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party, but I think one that they thoroughly deserve,” the shadow business secretary said.
“Clearly people have wanted to send a message to the government they’re fed up with the incompetence, the sleaze, the kind of revelations we’ve seen over the last few weeks. And I think the government has to take heed of that.”
Finishing a frank statement, he said: “(At) the minute it feels, to be frank, that this government is not in control of itself, let alone the country. And I think the result last night reflects that.”
Sam Hancock17 December 2021 07:14
Labour MP struggles to explain party’s defeat in by-election
Labour’s shadow business secretary chose some clumsy phrasing this morning when explaining why he felt his party had been unsuccessful in gaining the North Shropshire seat.
“We put the effort in that was proportionate to our chance of winning,” Jonathan Reynolds told BBC Breakfast.
Presenter Charlie Stayt jumped at the chance to clarify if this meant Labour had put minimum effort into campaigning for the seat, due to the fact their candidate Ben Wood took less than 10 per cent of the vote.
Mr Reynolds hit back that “obviously” Labour had put effort into winning the seat, before going on to say Labour is a “party of government”.
His appearance on the early morning programme received largely negative reviews on Twitter.
Sam Hancock17 December 2021 07:10
Oliver Dowden set to be first Tory MP reacting to defeat
It seems the Conservative Party’s chairman, Oliver Dowden, has the unlucky job of doing the media rounds this morning, where questions will no doubt focus on reaction to the party’s shock defeat in the North Shropshire by-election.
Sam Hancock17 December 2021 06:57
Watch new Lib Dem MP Helen Morgan tell Johnson ‘the party is over’
‘Boris Johnson, the party is over’, says Helen Morgan after her North Shropshire win
Sam Hancock17 December 2021 06:46
‘Impossible not to be impressed’: Political commentators have their say
A flurry of political pundits have already had their say on the potential impact of today’s by-election result on the PM. Here’s a handful of those remarks.
Our policy correspondent Jon Stone reminds us of the Lib Dems’ strengths when it comes to by-elections:
The Daily Mirror’s Kevin Maguire used new Lib Dem MP Helen Morgan’s own words from her victory speech to cast doubt on Boris Johnson’s leadership:
Sky’s Beth Rigby says Tory MPs will likely be “rattled” by the outcome:
Meanwhile, veteran Tory MP John Redwood has already taken to Twitter to encourage the government to see the result as a sign ministers should begin “listening to” Conservative backbenchers:
Sam Hancock17 December 2021 06:40
Triumphant Lib Dem candidate condemns PM’s ‘lies’
Helen Morgan used her victory speech in the early hours of Friday morning to thank party activists and to attack what she described as Boris Johnson’s “lies and bluster”.
Speaking from the podium at Shrewsbury Sports Village, she praised her “incredible” campaign team for their efforts in the most challenging circumstances.
Although few party supporters were allowed into the indoor bowling green where the result was declared, she told those present: “Your amazing efforts have delivered a gift of hope to our country, just in time for Christmas.
“Tonight, the people of North Shropshire have spoken on behalf of the British people.
“They have said loudly and clearly: ‘Boris Johnson, the party is over’.
“Your Government, run on lies and bluster, will be held accountable. It will be scrutinised, it will be challenged and it can and will be defeated.
“Tonight the people of North Shropshire have said enough is enough. They have said that you are unfit to lead and that they want a change.”
She also thanked “most of all” the people of North Shropshire, saying: “Not just for your support throughout this campaign, not just for putting your faith in me to be your champion in parliament, but for all the hard work and sacrifices you have made over the past two years, to get our communities through this awful pandemic.
“I will never take it for granted.”
In an another apparent dig at the Tories, who have been embroiled in second job scandals in recent months, Ms Morgan finished her speech by telling her constituency: “As your MP, I promise I will work for you and only you. I will always put local people and our communities first.”
Sam Hancock17 December 2021 06:23