Boris Johnson takes responsibility for North Shropshire defeat
Boris Johnson, 57, suffered a major electoral blow at the end of 2021 when the Conservative Party lost the once-safe seat of North Shropshire to the Liberal Democrats. The by-election loss in the Brexit-backing seat came just months after the Liberal Democrats knocked their first brick out of the Blue Wall when they won the Chesham & Amersham by-election back in June.
But a letter sent to party staff, which has been seen by Express.co.uk, suggests the Liberal Democrats believe they can build on their victory in Leave-supporting North Shropshire as the party eyes up seats which backed Brexit in 2016.
The letter reads: “I am now recommending we ramp up ground campaigning in those seats even more in the New Year.”
The Liberal Democrats had previously indicated they would focus on targeting Tory seats which voted to keep Britain in the Brussels bloc, such as Cheadle and Cheltenham.
However, the document highlighted how the Leave-voting former Liberal Democrat seats of Carshalton & Wallington, Eastbourne and Hazel Grove were now key target seats for the party.
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Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey
The Liberal Democrat candidate for Carshalton & Wallington, Bobby Dean, told Express.co.uk: “By far the biggest issue raised with me on the doorstep is the Conservative Government cutting services from our local hospital.
“What I heard in North Shropshire, where local health service cuts was a huge issue, is exactly what I am hearing in Carshalton and Wallington.
“People are just fed up with Boris Johnson and his endless list of broken promises.”
The decision to set sights on the Conservatives’ Brexit heartlands comes after polling conducted on behalf of Liberal Democrats found almost half of 2019 Tory voters, including those who backed Brexit in 2016, felt Mr Johnson’s party had taken them for granted.
“We are now on battle stations and getting ready to turn the Blue Wall yellow at the next election.”
The Tories managed to win the votes of almost three-quarters of Leave voters in 2019.
The memorandum also claims winning over Eurosceptic voters played a significant role in helping the Liberal Democrats emerge victorious in Chesham & Amersham.
The letter, penned by the party’s campaign chief, claimed: “Our internal canvass analysis shows over one-third of all Leave voters in Chesham & Amersham backed us.
“The Conservatives only held us off in many seats in 2019 because they had a complete lock on Leave votes.
“This has now changed, and if this trend continues, the Conservatives will become extremely worried about many marginal Blue Wall seats.”
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Boris Johnson campaigning with Vote Leave
Lib Dem candidate Helen Morgan and ex-leader Tim Farron celebrate victory at North Shropshire
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, 55, has also said his party is ready to take the fight to the Tories.
He said: “We are now on battle stations and getting ready to turn the Blue Wall yellow at the next election.”
The Kingston & Surbiton MP added: “There is no route to removing Boris Johnson’s Conservatives from power without us winning many more seats.”
The Brexit realignment played a significant role in the 2019 general election, with pollsters suggesting the Tories managed to win the votes of almost three-quarters of Leave voters.
Sir Ed Davey’s party have taken North Shropshire and Chesham & Amersham from the Tories
Labour, led by Sir Keir Starmer, registered a 7-point lead in Opinium’s recent opinion poll
However, Opinium’s most recent survey, which gave Labour a seven-point lead over the Tories, suggested Conservative support with Leave-voters has fallen to just 53 percent.
Despite some dire data, Opinium’s head of political polling Chris Curtis claimed the result in North Shropshire could just be a protest vote.
He said: “I think in North Shropshire they probably did get a large chunk of the Leave-vote but it was probably more of a protest than anything.
“I think at the next election the Liberal Democrats are going to do better in areas that voted to Remain than they are in Leave areas.”
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Protecting the NHS remains an important issue for voters, according to Chris Curtis
Immigration is proving to be an important issue for Leave voters
With the UK set to face a cost of living crisis in 2022, there is growing pressure on the Prime Minister to put forward the Tory Party’s historic economic credentials.
The issue of immigration could also prove a problem for the Conservative Party after a record-breaking 28,381 made the perilous journey to cross the Channel in 2021.
Speaking about immigration and asylum, the Opinium pollster added: “If you look at Leave-voters specifically, they now say that is the most important issue but also about 80 percent of them say the Government is doing an absolutely awful job at handling it at the moment.”
Despite problems in the polls, ex-Tory and UKIP MEP David Campbell-Bannerman, 61, believes Mr Johnson can win back Brexit-supporting voters.
The former East of England MEP said: “I think Leave voters will return but need reassurance.”
Ex-Tory and UKIP MEP David Campbell-Bannerman
Mr Campbell-Bannerman told Express.co.uk: “I think Leave voters will return but need reassurance.”
He then explained the Prime Minister could do this by triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, providing additional support for Britain’s fishing industry and by starting to sell “the opportunities of Brexit”.
When asked about the impact of taxation, sleaze and immigration, the former East of England MEP said “all boats must be stopped”, claimed “lowering taxes is essential” to the Tory Party’s recovery, and argued “action is already being taken on the alleged scandals”.