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People are angry – and now we’ve shown that Johnson’s Tories can be beaten anywhere

December 18, 2021 1:12 PM
By Ed Davey in Guardian

The brilliant Lib Dem victory in North Shropshire is part of a trend; the default setting of 'vote Tory' has been broken

As the nights draw in and the days grow shorter, the people of North Shropshire have lit a flame of hope to brighten our nation.

The Liberal Democrats have defeated Boris Johnson in Shropshire, just as we did in Buckinghamshire in June. Two heartland Tory constituencies, more than 150 miles apart, written off as foregone conclusions at every past election. Until now.

My party has shown that the Conservatives can be beaten anywhere - because across the villages, towns and cities of our country, people are fed up and angry.

Throughout the North Shropshire campaign, I spoke to lifelong Conservative voters who had decided enough was enough. Many told me loud and clear - they will never vote Tory again.

In North Shropshire and earlier this year in Chesham and Amersham we have seen a fundamental realignment of British politics, a generational shift, in which the default setting of "vote Tory" has been reset.

It is not just traditional Tory voters who backed the Liberal Democrats in this byelection. Once it became clear my party was the local challenger to the Conservatives, thousands of Green and Labour voters supporters voted for us too. That is a powerful message for the progressive future of our country - and a clear path for voting Johnson out of office.

It's important for our shared goal of beating Johnson and the Conservatives to remember that North Shropshire was not just about national issues and the national mood: it was very much also about community politics. I've always believed that you cannot change the country until you have won the trust of local communities.

Our new MP Helen Morgan is a fantastic local campaigner rooted in her community. On doorstep after doorstep she won us support.

In her, voters in Shropshire saw a community activist who shared their anger at an underfunded health service and at soaring ambulance waiting times. They saw a local resident who understands the struggles their high street shops and local businesses are facing in a time of great uncertainty. Above all, they saw someone like them, who lives and breathes their community, and is determined to make local people's lives better.

The next few months will be tough for Britain. With Covid infections rising, schools shutting early, and the soaring cost of living hitting pockets hard, we need a government that will listen and act. Yet in Johnson's Conservatives, we have a government and a party that's not even listening to the scientists and that's taking people for granted.

I want last night's results to show the British public that there is an alternative to the Conservative party.

The Liberal Democrats will stand up for communities and demand a fair deal for everyone. This means better schools, safer streets and an NHS given every resource necessary so everyone receives the care they need.

Delivering on that fair deal starts with listening to people. In North Shropshire, just as in Chesham and Amersham, we have shown that when a political party takes the time to listen people will give them a chance.

Thanks to the people of North Shropshire, the beginning of the end of Boris Johnson is finally here.

  • Ed Davey is the leader of the Liberal Democrats and MP for Kingston and Surbiton