Owen Paterson has gone ...
Now, Bozo and his pals are left to survey the wreckage of another car crash campaign as Owen Paterson’s 23,000 majority from just two years ago was not just wiped out by Lib Dem challenger Helen Morgan (who came third in 2019, behind Labour), but turned into a 5,900 majority for Ed Davey and his increasingly confident band of insurgents.
The Tory vote sank by more than 30 points as the Lib Dem vote rose by over 37; the swing from former to latter was over 34%. Labour’s vote sank by more than 12 points as tactical voting took hold. The pressure is now on Bozo: as commentators were swift to point out, this wasn’t just a re-run of Chesham and Amersham. North Shropshire was solid Leave territory, but has now returned an MP representing the most Remain of parties.
... Daniel Kawczynski could be next ...
But just to the south lies Shrewsbury and Atcham, which may see its own by-election, and sooner rather than later: sitting Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski could be about to run out of road the same way Paterson did - over lobbying. The Guardian’s head of investigations Paul Lewis: “Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski has been referred to the House of Commons standards watchdog. Follows Guardian investigation revealing WhatsApp messages in which he touted his ‘pro-Saudi’ stance in parliament in a bid to get a second job”.
The Guardian “revealed how the politician hosted a Saudi Arabian businessman in parliament while hoping to secure a lucrative second job … Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow leader of the Commons, has now asked Kathryn Stone to investigate whether any wrongdoing took place, saying: ‘This would appear to be yet another potentially egregious breach of the rules. An MP trying to use their parliamentary resources to tout for a second job is unacceptable’”. A recall petition could be on the cards.
And then there may be yet another by-election, but unlike North Shropshire, where Labour could shrug off coming third and losing vote share as some kind of one-off event, the party would have to step up and win if it wants to be considered a Government in waiting. Why that should be not merely possible, but probable, is not hard to deduce.
Labour won there in 1997 and 2001 - two successive General Elections. If Keir Starmer is to cut through with Middle England, with swing voters, with the disaffected who have habitually voted Tory but have recoiled at the stench of corruption, revelations of Covid rule-breaking, the shameless lying and the failure of Brexit, he will have to perform here.
... at which point, he has to ask himself: Do I Feel Lucky?
Because no matter who the candidate is, it is the Labour leadership that would be on the ballot. If the Lib Dems can up-end the Tories in the next door constituency, Labour should be able to match them in a seat they have held recently. Seeing the likes of Wes Streeting doing the studio rounds the next day leering about making a big dent in the Tory majority - after failing to take the seat - would not be good enough.
Today Bozo’s leadership is in the balance. Tomorrow it may be Keir Starmer’s turn.
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