BORIS Johnson has suffered a historic defeat in the North Shropshire by-election as the Lib Dems wiped out a 23,000 Tory majority to deal a hammer blow to his wobbly premiership.
In a stunning upset the Lib Dem Helen Morgan surged to victory by almost 6,000 votes to strike a gut-punch to the PM’s leadership following a bruising few weeks in office.
Lib Dem Helen Morgan wins North ShropshireCredit: PA
Tory candidate Neil Shastri-Hurst who came secondCredit: PA
Lib Dem Helen Morgan is congratulatedCredit: Reuters
Owen Paterson had a near-23,000 majority in the 2019 general election when the Prime Minister achieved a landslide, but support evaporated as the Tories battle damning allegations on multiple fronts.
Not only was the vote triggered by the sleaze scandal centred on Mr Paterson, it came after the beleaguered Prime Minister has been battered by claims of lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street.
And the defeat will cap a torrid week that included the massive rebellion Conservative backbenchers dealt Mr Johnson on Tuesday over his new coronavirus restrictions as the Omicron variant surged.
Ms Morgan won 17,957 votes, trouncing Tory candidate Neil Shastri-Hurst into second on 12,032.
“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’,” Ms Morgan said in her victory speech.
“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.”
North Shropshire had returned a Tory MP in every vote since 1983, which was the constituency’s first election in its current form.
But the Brexit-backing area has been true blue, only twice voting for another colour, since the Conservative Party’s inception in 1830.
Mr Paterson represented the constituency for 24 years until his resignation after the Prime Minister’s botched attempt to shield him from a 30-day suspension.
Mr Johnson attempted to force a Tory-led review of the rules for MPs after Mr Paterson was found to have breached lobbying rules for two companies paying him Ł100,000 a year.
Multiple fresh allegations of sleaze were levelled at the Tories during the row and ultimately the MP was forced to resign, saying he wanted to escape the “cruel world of politics”.
In 2019, the Tories won 62.7% of the vote and held the seat with a majority of 22,949 over Labour.
Ms Morgan came third with just 10% of the vote when facing Mr Paterson in the general election.
Thursday’s defeat compounds a tumultuous period for Mr Johnson after 100 Conservatives defied the leadership to vote against the introduction of mandatory Covid health passes for entry to large venues – the biggest rebellion since he entered No 10.
Asked on Wednesday if Mr Johnson would quit if North Shropshire falls, the Prime Minister’s press secretary said: “We are fighting for every vote.”
The swing to the Lib Dems was even larger than in the party’s first seizure of a former Tory stronghold since the general election.
Chesham and Amersham had been a Conservative stronghold since the constituency’s creation in 1974, but the Lib Dems seized it with a 25% swing from the Tories in July.
Ms Morgan, a 46-year-old accountant who lives in the Shropshire village of Harmer Hill, will become the newest MP having beaten Mr Shastri-Hurst, a barrister based in Birmingham.
The turnout in North Shropshire was 46.3%, or 38,110 voters.