Boris Johnson suffered a crushing loss as the Lib Dems seized control of a Tory stronghold

Boris Johnson suffered a crushing loss as the Lib Dems seized control of a Tory stronghold

Helen Morgan defeated the Conservatives by 5,925 votes in a by-election triggered by Owen Paterson's resignation.

Ms Morgan got 17,957 votes, beating out Tory candidate Neil Shastri-Hurst (12,032). The Green Party had 1,738 votes and Labour had 3,686. Turnout was 46.3% (38,110 voters).

The seat had been blue for nearly 200 years, and Mr Patterson had a near-23,000 majority in 2019, but support dwindled as the party faced multiple allegations.

Mr Dowden said the voters had given the Tories a ‘kicking'.

‘North Shropshire voters were fed up and they gave us a kicking,' he told Sky News. I believe they wanted to send us a message, and as Conservative Party Chairman, we got it.

‘We need to get on with the job, and we are.'

Sir Roger Gale, a long-serving Conservative MP, said the North Shropshire by-election defeat had left the PM in a bind.

‘The electorate wanted to send a very clear message to Downing Street that they were dissatisfied with the management of this Government,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

This is a referendum on the Prime Minister's performance, and I believe he is on "last orders."

First one this week in the Commons vote, and now this. Then he's out.'

It's true that the scandal surrounding Mr Paterson triggered the vote, but the Prime Minister has also been hit by claims of lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.

The defeat caps a turbulent week that saw Conservative backbenchers hurl a massive revolt against Mr Johnson's new coronavirus restrictions as the Omicron variant surged.

‘Tonight, the people of North Shropshire have spoken for the British people,' Ms Morgan said.

“Boris Johnson, the party is over”, they said loudly.

‘Your crooked government will be held accountable. It will be scrutinised, contested, and possibly defeated.

‘North Shropshire has had enough tonight. They say you can't lead and they want a change.'

North Shropshire had elected a Tory MP in every election since 1983, when the constituency was created.

But since the Conservative Party's inception in 1830, the Brexit-supporting area has been blue.

Mr Paterson served the constituency for 24 years before resigning after the Prime Minister botched a 30-day suspension.

Mr Johnson tried to compel a Tory-led review of MP rules after Mr Paterson was found to have broken rules for two companies worth over £100,000 a year.

During the row, the Tories faced new sleaze allegations, forcing the MP to resign, citing his desire to escape the ‘cruel world of politics'.

Mr Shastri-Hurst was asked if the Prime Minister was to blame for the poor result.

‘We've run a positive campaign here, I'm extremely proud of everyone's work,' he told reporters. Of course, we are disappointed.'

‘We're 11 years into a Conservative Government, by-elections are never easy,' he said.

Earlier this month, 100 Conservatives defied the leadership to vote against mandatory Covid health passes for large venues, the biggest rebellion since Mr Johnson took over.

‘We are fighting for every vote,' the Prime Minister's press secretary said on Wednesday.

For the first time since the election, the Lib Dems took over a former Tory stronghold, with a 34% swing.

Chesham and Amersham had been a Conservative stronghold since 1974, but a 25% swing in July gave the Lib Dems the seat.

Ms Morgan, a 46-year-old accountant from Harmer Hill in Shropshire, beat Mr Shastri-Hurst, a Birmingham-based barrister.

‘This result is a watershed moment in our politics and offers hope to people across the country that a brighter future is possible,' said Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey after testing positive for Covid-19.

‘Millions of people are fed up with Boris Johnson and his lack of leadership during the pandemic, and North Shropshire voters spoke for them all last night.

The party is over, say lifelong Conservatives from Buckinghamshire to Shropshire who have flocked to the Liberal Democrats.

On the other hand, Labour hailed the result, calling it a ‘disaster' for Mr Johnson, who is ‘too weak to lead'.

‘The Prime Minister has lost not only his authority in the House but also control of his party and the public's trust.'