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Comment: Boris Johnson, Could This Be My Part in His Downfall?

Published on: 19 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 21 Dec, 2021

The result being announced on the BBC

Catherine Houston, chair of the Guildford Liberal Democrats, travelled to North Shropshire to help her party’s campaign on by-election day. The result was dramatic. Here is her account…

Mike turned up at the ungodly hour of 2.30am with his electric car fully charged.  We had answered our party’s call to travel up to Oswestry and help campaign on polling day. Mike Dent was one of our newest members but like me, was keen to help the campaign and win. 

Mike re-charging the electric car at 4.30am

We needed to stop every 150 miles or so for a recharge which allowed us to grab some breakfast in Telford and arrived at our Oswestry base at 7.30am, feeling like it was already midday.

6.30am breakfast for Catherine at Telford services

On arrival we were assigned to two different polling stations for ‘telling’ duties. ‘Tellers’ are those you see sitting patiently outside the stations wearing a party rosette, helping work out who has already voted and getting an idea of turnout. 

Arriving at the first polling station where Catherine spent polling day morning

I was on my own for the first hour but luckily it wasn’t cold and there was a regular stream of voters, many of whom were happy to stop for a chat.  The first person told me “I’m voting for change.  I’ve always voted Conservative but I’m voting Lib Dem this time. I don’t like what’s going on around here or down in London, nor them thinking we will vote for someone parachuted in from Birmingham.” I heard similar stories throughout the morning. Constituents felt the Conservative, who lived miles away, knew nothing of the area.

At 9 o’clock I was joined by a local Green Party councillor. He berated me gently for the Lib Dem leaflets posted through doors before polls opened. “Too early!” He exclaimed. 

Almost as if by design a lady arrived, gave me her polling number and told me she was going to “…vote Lib Dem this time”.  I asked her who she usually voted for, “Labour, but it has to be Lib Dem today to beat the Tories, and I really liked the leaflet I received this morning, so I’m backing you.” I looked at my Green Party colleague and he smiled ruefully.

Mike rejoined me at 11.30. He had similar stories of many people telling him, “I’m voting Lib Dem.”  One lady had handed him her dog on a lead and said as she marched inside, “Well, as I’m going to vote for you then you can look after him for me!”

We went back to base to get our next instructions and were allocated a handful of streets to “knock up”, meaning to encourage people to their polling station.  Just as we were heading back to the car, who should we see walking towards us, but our candidate Helen Morgan herself!  “Can we have a photo with you please?” She duly obliged.

Mike Dent and Catherine Houston with victorious Lib Dem candidate Helen Morgan (centre), mid polling day in Oswestry

At 2.30pm we had to say goodbye to North Shropshire in order to make the long journey back to Guildford. 

The result when it came through in the early hours was a political earthquake and will be one of those events that will forever be remembered as a “political watershed”.

The party is definitely over for Mr Johnson.  All of us at Guildford Lib Dems have been overwhelmed at the happy response we have had from friends, members and supporters contacting us to say, “Well done,” and, “How can I help you win next time?” or, “How can I make a donation?”  The support has made us more determined than ever to keep working, to give Guildford a feeling of hope and deliver it a progressive, empathetic, Liberal Democrat MP next time.

In her post declaration speech, North Shropshire’s new MP said: “Thank you to the thousands of Liberal Democrat campaigners who answered our party’s call,” It made me feel quite special.

Guildford’s MP Angela Richardson who campaigned for the Conservative candidate in North Shropshire was also asked to relate her experience but no response was received. Both reports were requested before the result was known.

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Responses to Comment: Boris Johnson, Could This Be My Part in His Downfall?

  1. John Perkins Reply

    December 20, 2021 at 10:51 am

    Liberal Democrats should not be too quick to dance on Johnson’s grave – he was not known as the “greased piglet” for nothing. Furthermore, there is a widespread belief that, having achieved the highest office, he now wants to leave in order to improve his finances.

    The result showed that, proportionally, the Labour vote collapsed even more than that of the Conservatives. It’s likely they switched to the Lib Dems for tactical reasons and one possibility is the announcement, two days earlier, that Labour would support new Covid restrictions over Christmas.

    It’s understandable why people might dislike Johnson, his cabinet and his advisors, given the alacrity with which they restrict freedom on the basis of predictions often described as scaremongering. But that does not mean they favour any alternative.

    Turnout was far lower than in previous general elections, which, whilst normal for bye-elections, is hardly a “political watershed”. Liberals have been preparing for office since the early 1960s, but never make it.

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    December 20, 2021 at 11:01 pm

    Boris Johnson has lost the confidence of normal people for many reasons but the main one is that he is not a Conservative but a Liberal.

    The current so-called Conservative party has to stop following trendy leftist policies which are almost as bad as those that the official Liberals espouse. After all, why should voters support the Boris Liberal party when they can vote for the official one – especially when they know that the Liberal Democrats will only hold the seat until the next general election?

  3. David Roberts Reply

    December 21, 2021 at 4:20 pm

    Prof Sir John Curtice, who is probably a better authority on these things than most, has another interpretation: that the Lib Dems are likely to lose North Shropshire at the next election and that if the tactical voting seen there is repeated in similar constituencies the Tories could easily lose 60 seats and their overall Parliamentary majority to a Labour/Lib Dem coalition or pact. This is a far more plausible scenario now under Starmer/Davey than in the recent past.

    Johnson’s defects and pratfalls aside, experience and common sense alone suggest that any party is going to be running out of steam and talent after eleven years in government.

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