LONDON, June 18 — Britain’s ruling Conservative party suffered a major upset in a by-election result announced today, losing a safe seat it had held for nearly 50 years.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party lost in the contest to elect an MP for Chesham and Amersham — prosperous commuter towns in Buckinghamshire, northwest of London.
The centrist Liberal Democrat candidate, Sarah Green, won more than 56 per cent in a constituency that had been held by the Tories since it was set up in its current form in 1974.
The Times newspaper said the defeat raised questions over the Conservative strategy of focusing efforts on seizing seats from the main opposition Labour party, rather than on defending traditional Tory seats, known as the “Blue Wall” due to the party’s logo colour.
Johnson’s party in May won a by-election in the traditional Labour-voting Hartlepool, adding another parliamentary seat in northeast England to those they secured in the last general election in December 2019, when Brexit was the main issue.
The pro-European Lib Dems campaigned actively in Chesham and Amersham, tapping into local opposition to controversial projects in the area, with leader Ed Davey visiting 16 times, The Times said.
The BBC said voters this time round focused on local issues: the controversial construction of a high-speed rail link through the constituency and plans to build more houses in rural areas.
Davey tweeted that the result “sent a shockwave through British politics” and proved the “blue wall can be smashed by @libdems”.
The contest was triggered by the death in April of former government minister Cheryl Gillan, who had held the seat for 29 years.
Peter Fleet, a former motor industry executive who was bidding to replace her, called the result “very disappointing”.
The Lib Dems “didn’t just throw the kitchen sink at this constituency, I think it was the microwave, the dishwasher, the table, the dog, the cat and anything else that was lying around as well,” he said. — AFP