The people of Chesham and Amersham have just sent a shockwave through British politics.
In the Chilterns, in one of the supposedly “safest” Conservative seats in the country, voters got behind the Liberal Democrats in huge numbers and elected the fantastic Sarah Green to parliament. They have shown that no matter where you live, you don’t have to put up with a Conservative Party that ignores you and takes you for granted. If you want a Liberal Democrat MP, you can have one.
The Liberal Democrats have won many famous by-election victories over the years. In Chesham and Amersham – just like in Eastbourne and Eastleigh, Christchurch and Brent, Richmond Park and the rest – we spoke to tens of thousands of people, listened closely to their concerns, and worked hard to win their trust. But even after all that, turning a 16,000 Conservative majority into an 8,000 Liberal Democrat majority was beyond even our wildest hopes.
After all, the pundits said it was impossible for any party to beat the Conservatives in Buckinghamshire. They told us the constituency was just too safe and the Tories are just too strong. But once again, the Liberal Democrats proved them wrong.
Our resounding victory demonstrates the discontent, the frustration and the anger that so many people – even many who have voted Conservative all their lives – feel towards Boris Johnson and his dishonest, incompentent and uncaring Conservative government. And it shows how hungry people are for something better.
The message from voters in the Chilterns couldn’t be clearer. They want this Conservative government to be held to account for its cruelty and carelessness – and they know the Liberal Democrats are the people to do it. They’re not buying Johnson’s hubris and bluster. They don’t trust him or his Tory ministers, and they want to see them properly scrutinised and challenged.
That’s exactly what the Liberal Democrats have been doing. When Johnson and Matt Hancock let Covid rip through care homes without a thought to the devastation it would cause to so many families, we held them to account. When three million people – mostly the self-employed – were excluded from financial support altogether throughout the pandemic, we took up their fight.
And when the prime minister failed to match his words on climate change with real action, the Liberal Democrats argued for an ambitious £150bn Green Recovery Plan to create hundreds of thousands of secure, well-paid, clean jobs in every part of the country.
Now, with Sarah Green strengthening our team in parliament, we will be able to challenge this government even more fiercely. Crucially, we will defend the fundamental British rights and freedoms that are under attack by the Conservatives. Because they are trying to crackdown on everyone’s right to peaceful assembly and protest; stop communities from having a say over local planning decisions; restrict your ability to hold governments to account through the courts; and even make it harder for people to vote. Tory ministers are intent on hoarding power for themselves and silencing any opposition to their policies.
Well, the Liberal Democrats have always believed in more power for individuals, and we won’t stop fighting for it. We will keep working to defeat the Conservatives and build a fairer, greener, more caring country as we emerge from this pandemic.
We’ve heard a lot about the “red wall” in the Midlands and the North recently. But the local elections last month showed that the Tories’ southern “blue wall” is beginning to crumble. Our historic victory in Chesham and Amersham last night confirms it.
Across the south, and in huge swathes of the country, the Liberal Democrats are the main challengers to the Conservatives. And at the next general election, with your support, we can bring the “blue wall” down and take this dreadful Conservative government down with it.
Ed Davey is leader of the Liberal Democrats