The Lib Dems have won the North Shropshire by-election in what ranks as one of the most astonishing British electoral results ever.
Helen Morgan took the seat with 17,957 votes compared to Conservative rival Neil Shastri-Hurst’s 12,032.
It comes just two years after the Conservatives won the seat with a 23,000 majority; and means the area will not have a blue MP for the first time in more than a century.
The result will now raise immediate questions about Boris Johnson’s leadership of the Tory party - with many local activists blaming a series of Downing Street scandals and missteps for the horror result.
Speaking after she was announced as the victor at Shrewsbury Sports Village, Ms Morgan - who lives in the constituency village of Harmer Hill - said the result sent a clear message to Mr Johnson’s government.
“Tonight, the people of North Shropshire have spoken on behalf of the British people,” she said. “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.”
Ms Morgan added that “thousands of lifelong” Tory voters have been left “dismayed” by the PM’s “lack of decency and [are] fed up with being taken for granted”.
“Tonight the people of North Shropshire have said ‘enough is enough’. They have said you are unfit to lead and they want a change,” she said.
“Thank you most of all to the people of North Shropshire, not just for support throughout this campaign but for all the hard work and sacrifices you have made throughout this past two years.”
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.”
“This result is a watershed moment in our politics and offers hope to people around the country that a brighter future is possible,” Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said.
“Millions of people are fed up with Boris Johnson and his failure to provide leadership throughout the pandemic and last night the voters of North Shorpshire spoke for all of them,” he added.
“From Buckinghamshire to Shropshire, lifelong Conservatives have turned to the Liberal Democrats in their droves and sent a clear message to the Prime Minister that the party is over.”
In 2019, the Tories won 62.7 per cent of the vote and held the seat with a majority of 22,949 over Labour.
Ms Morgan came third with just 10 per cent of the vote when facing Mr Paterson in the general election.
Ms Morgan, a 46-year-old accountant, will become the country’s newest MP having beaten Mr Shastri-Hurst, a barrister based in Birmingham.
The turnout in North Shropshire was 46.3 per cent, or 38,110 voters.
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