Local elections: Sir Ed Davey on 'very positive' Lib Dem results
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A Liberal Democrat source shared with Express.co.uk a document that included the names of 10 Tory MPs at risk in the so-called ‘Blue Wall’. The Conservative MPs were identified after Liberal Democrat insiders calculated how ward-by-ward local election results would translate into parliamentary constituencies. While Boris Johnson’s Tories faced a bruising set of results, the Liberal Democrats emerged as clear victors in England’s recent local elections after the party gained 194 seats across 146 council districts on May 5.
Much of the Liberal Democrats’ successes came in the south of England, including in the true blue county of Surrey.
Dominic Raab, who was demoted to Justice Secretary in Boris Johnson’s September reshuffle, featured high on the Liberal Democrats’ political hit list after the Tories lost six councillors in Elmbridge.
Esher & Walton, which opted for the UK to remain in the European Union, narrowly returned the Brexit-backing former Foreign Secretary after his 23,298-vote majority was slashed to just 2,743 in 2019.
However, the Lord High Chancellor’s 4.4 percent lead over the Liberal Democrats would have been lost if the local election result on May 5 was emulated at the next general election.
The Liberal Democrats would instead come out on top with a 6.8 percent majority on a swing of 10.8 percent.
Mr Raab has since conceded it will be a challenge to retain his ‘Blue Wall’ seat when Brits next go to the polls.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge after the local elections, the Deputy Prime Minister said: “Look, it is going to be a tough fight for me in my seat.”
However, Mr Raab added: “I am confident that he [Boris Johnson] can and will win the next election.”
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Sir John Redwood could also face a challenge in nearby Berkshire.
The ex-Welsh Secretary, who stood against Sir John Major for the Tory leadership in 1995, has been seen as a prominent Eurosceptic on Conservative Party benches for many years.
Mr Redwood even cited concerns about fishing rights and the Northern Ireland Protocol when he joined just one other Tory MP in abstaining on the vote to pass Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.
Mr Redwood’s constituents in Wokingham, who have returned a Conservative MP to the Commons in every election since 1924, cut his majority down from 18,798 to just 7,383 in 2019 after ex-Tory MP Phillip Lee stood for the pro-EU Liberal Democrats.
But it is now thought the Conservatives’ 11.9 percent lead would have been flipped to a 16.2 point lead for the Liberal Democrats.
However, the Liberal Democrats have not just set their sights on remain-voting England.
Two Brexit-backing Tory MPs listed represent voters in the leave-voting seats of Hazel Grove and Carshalton & Wallington.
Hazel Grove, which is represented by prominent ‘Pork Pie Plotter’ William Wragg, even witnessed an enormous 18.6 percent swing to the Liberal Democrats.
And the Liberal Democrats have enjoyed recent success in Mr Johnson’s Brexit heartlands.
Helen Morgan won the race to replace Owen Paterson in North Shropshire after the Eurosceptic ex-Environment Secretary resigned from the Commons following a breach in parliamentary lobbying rules.
Responding to Liberal Democrat local election victories in the south of England, deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “These elections are the clearest warning shot yet to Conservative MPs across the ‘Blue Wall’ who are seeing their vote crumble before their eyes.
“Having a law-breaking Prime Minister and a tax-raising Chancellor at the helm – sitting on their hands while families struggle with the cost of living emergency – has left many Tory Ministers sitting very uncomfortably indeed.
“Former lifelong Conservative voters who are fed up of being ignored are turning to the Liberal Democrats and our offer of a fair deal in their droves in a ‘Blue Wall’ backlash.”
Cautioning the Conservative Party, the St Albans MP added: “Make no mistake, we are putting those MPs who have taken their constituents for granted for far too long on notice.”
Despite growing confidence from the Liberal Democrats, a polling expert has warned that local election results will not necessarily be carried over at the next general election.
Chris Curtis, head of political polling at Opinium, said that the local election turnout was not only lower than in general elections but also “naturally inflated” by a disproportionate number of Liberal Democrat voters.
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He also claimed that general elections can produce very different results as constituents tend to vote on national issues rather than deciding which party would be better placed to run the local council.
In a further blow to Sir Ed Davey’s party, Mr Curtis suggested that the Tories could “squeeze” Conservative voters who had switched to the Liberal Democrats on May 5 back behind Mr Johnson by echoing David Cameron’s 2015 election warning, which argued a vote for the Liberal Democrats would be the equivalent of a vote for Labour.
However, Mr Curtis also claimed that the Liberal Democrats “are in a good place” and could cling on to ex-Tory voters.
He said: “The evidence is increasingly that they’re so wound up by the Conservatives that despite the fact they voted Conservative last time around that kind of negative argument doesn’t work as well as it used to.”
Mr Curtis added: “I do think that because the Labour Party has under Keir Starmer become a lot less scary to these voters than the Labour Party was under Jeremy Corbyn or Ed Miliband that there’s actually a chance for the Liberal Democrats to win a lot more of these voters over.”
However, a ‘Blue Wall’ Conservative MP has dismissed the threat posed by the Liberal Democrats in the south of England.
He told Express.co.uk: “The Conservatives focus on the things that really matter to people’s lives, and are delivering on the British people’s priorities; strengthening our economy, investing in public services and easing the cost of living for people.
“We should remember that in many parts of the country the Conservatives made gains, and I am confident we will continue to make progress going forwards.”
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