Dowden admits Tories took a 'kicking' in North Shropshire

17 December 2021, 09:13 | Updated: 17 December 2021, 09:15

By Asher McShane

Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden admitted to LBC today that the party had been given a "kicking" in the North Shropshire by-election.

Mr Dowden told Nick Ferrari: “I won’t mince my words. Voters in North Shropshire were fed up, and they’ve given us a kicking.

“I want voters to know that we as a Conservative party and I as Conservative party chairman have heard that message.

“This was a by-election in unique circumstances that began with the resignation of the incumbent MP over sleaze allegations and continued with numerous stories that you don’t need me to repeat.

“[Labour] sank from a strong second place, so this feels more like a mid-term by-election and not like a sea change.”

Read more: Lib Dems seize ultra-safe Tory seat in North Shropshire by-election piling pressure on PM

The Liberal Democrats overturned a huge Tory majority to win the North Shropshire by-election in a seismic victory that will pile further pressure on Boris Johnson.

In one of the most comprehensive by-election defeats in recent decades, the Conservatives lost what was an ultra-safe seat to Lib Dem Helen Morgan by 5,925 votes.

The Prime Minister's authority was dealt another blow with the swing to the Lib Dems a massive 34% in the ballot triggered by the resignation of Owen Paterson.

The former minister had a near-23,000 majority in the West Midlands constituency in the 2019 general election when the Mr Johnson 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 £100,000 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".

Leaving the election count in defeat, Mr Shastri-Hurst was asked if the Prime Minister was to blame for the dismal result.

"We've run a positive campaign here, I'm extremely proud of the work that everybody's done. Of course it's a disappointing result for us," he told reporters.