Tory Hitchin and Harpenden seat is 'even more marginal after govt lies and corruption'
- Credit: Archant
After the byelection victory for the Liberal Democrats in North Shropshire, how likely is it that the same would happen here?
The Hitchin and Harpenden constituency has seen its Conservative majority fall dramatically in recent general elections.
In 2015, then Conservative MP Peter Lilley's majority was more than 20,000 - but by 2017 with Bim Afolami vying for Tory votes, it had dropped to 12,031 - and in 2019 his majority was slashed to 6,895. The Liberal Democrats' candidate Sam Collins secured 20,824 votes to the Conservatives' 27,719 in the December election.
In the North Shropshire byelection - which came about after Conservative MP Owen Paterson resigned last month amid a paid lobbying scandal and impending suspension - The Liberal Democrats' candidate Helen Morgan won with a majority of 5,925.
Mr Afolami has defended his decision to vote against the suspension of Owen Paterson, just hours before the North Shropshire representative quit as an MP.
Mr Paterson, who was an MP for 24 years, was caught up in controversy after he was found to have broken lobbying rules during his £110,000-a-year private sector work.
in 2019, Mr Paterson's majority was 22,949, indicating a swing of 34.2 per cent. The swing is said to be the seventh largest in United Kingdom byelection history.
The Conservative Party has seen itself shrouded in scandal in recent weeks, with allegations of sleaze and corruption blighting Boris Johnson's premiership.
The latest leaked image from Downing Street to the Guardian appears to show the PM and his wife at a gathering, with cheese and wine and around 14 colleagues in the garden of Number 10.
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In May last year when the picture is alleged to have been taken, the country was in lockdown - parties couldn't take place and only essential work meetings could happen while social distancing. Downing Street has said the image depicted a work meeting.
After the Shropshire result came in - and before the cheese and wine photo was released - we asked our Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami if he has confidence in the PM to lead the country through the remainder of pandemic, and the Conservatives into the next general election. We also questioned Mr Afolami on whether he was concerned the same outcome in North Shropshire could happen in Hitchin and Harpenden.
This newspaper did not receive a response from Mr Afolami. We did however, get comment from a local Liberal Democrat spokesperson.
The statement read: "The byelection results in North Shropshire, and Chesham and Amersham (LD gain from Tories with 25.2 per cent swing in June 2021) should put the Conservatives in Hitchin and Harpenden on notice that their P45s are in the post.
"It has been clear for some time that more and more people are utterly fed up of the Conservatives and being taken for granted by them. We saw that in the 2019 General Election result here in Hitchin and Harpenden, when we came so close to winning the seat in what would then have been considered a huge upset.
"But as we have seen more recently in both Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire, the Liberal Democrats are now able to win in classic Tory safe seats with much larger margins than that needed in Hitchin and Harpenden. I believe that we as the local Liberal Democrats will win this seat at the next General Election.
"Hitchin & Harpenden ceased to be a safe Tory seat in 2019, and the last two years have made it even more marginal. The mishandling of the pandemic, lies, apparent corruption, parties at no.10 when the rest of us were locked down, raw sewage pumped into our water course and the never ending mess of Brexit, has seen so many people just become utterly fed up of this Government.
"More than ever people locally want someone who actually wants to work for them, to be a proper local MP and not someone who focusses on advancing their own career interests.
"They want someone who is present and engaged, they want to get responses to their letters and emails, they simply want someone who cares about our area and the people who live here. "