The Liberal Democrats swept to victory in the North Shropshire by-election in the early hours of Friday morning, beating the Conservative candidate by a whopping 6,000 votes. But what happened and what does this mean for Johnson?
Just a week or so before the election, the bookies had the Lib Dems 8/1 to win the seat. Fast forward to the week of the election and the Lib Dem candidate, Helen Morgan, was odds-on favourite to win.
Campaigners threw everything at the election to ensure a new party representative in the constituency, where the Conservatives’ majority just two years ago was 22,949.
The seat had been previously held by the Conservative party for 190 years, losing it for only 2 of those in the early 1900s.
Though analysts thought the result would be tight, with many edging it in favour of the Conservatives, the reality is that sleaze, Downing Street parties and an egregious breach of lobbying rules by the outgoing MP was too much for many voters.
Campaigners from opposition parties on the ground spoke of disaffected Conservative voters who were not only unhappy with Owen, but with the conduct of Boris Johnson, his party and their continued breaking of rules, especially given the backdrop of the pandemic.
An enormous sticking point though is that this is Brexit territory, where 56.9% voted to leave the EU in 2016, which makes this an even more pertinent loss for the Conservative party, when the Liberal Democrats were officially a ‘stop Brexit’ party.
Though this will damage Boris Johnson’s image and credibility, it’s the machinations of conservative backbenchers that will ultimately determine his fate. It’s unlikely this historic vote will force Johnson out and attempts will no doubt be made to shore up support in the coming hours and days, but this government’s days are numbered.
The next General Election isn’t scheduled until 2024, but it doesn’t rule out a snap election and if recent national polling figures are to be trusted, we’d likely see a hung parliament with Labour being the largest party, but not achieving a majority.
Progressives though should celebrate this win as it marks a definite change in public opinion and demonstrates what can happen when voters come together to lend their vote to a candidate from another party.
The party is almost over for Boris Johnson, but the campaigning is only just beginning for us.