Shropshire North By-Election

This page first posted 21 December 2021

The Liberal Democrats won the Shropshire North by-election in a shock result. They increased their share of the vote from 10% at the 2019 general election to 47%. The Conservative vote fell from 63% down to 32%. Labour's vote was squeezed from 22% to 10%.

If this massive swing to the Liberal Democrats was repeated nationally, the Conservatives would be on 16%, Labour on 18%, and the Liberal Democrats 48%. This would translate into a landslide Liberal Democrat victory with the party winning 542 seats in the House of Commons, with the SNP as the official opposition, and Labour in third place on 24 seats. The Conservative party would be wiped out electorally and would win no seats.

PartyGE VotesGE SeatsImplied votes
with by-
election swing
Implied Seats
with by-
election swing
CON45%36516%0
LAB33%20318%24
LIB12%1148%542
Reform2%03%0
Green3%15%1
SNP4%485%59
Plaid0.5%41%5
Other1819

In reality, this scenario is unlikely to happen. The by-election vote was a large-scale protest against parliamentary sleaze and the government's other recent problems.

But it is worrying for the Conservatives because even if the actual national swing is only a fraction of the Shropshire North swing, it could still be very damaging for their electoral prospects.

The result does not bring much joy to the official opposition either. Although Labour was in second place at the general election, and well ahead of the Liberal Democrats, it was the smaller party which overtook Labour and squeezed their vote. The by-election result does not show great enthusiasm from actual voters for Keir Starmer's Labour party.

But new national polling shows the country could be moving in a more pro-Labour direction.

New Polling

Pollster Find Out Now and election experts Electoral Calculus have also run some polling on Westminster voting intention and other questions on behalf of the Telegraph. This poll of 1,017 respondents was carried out this week from 14-15 December 2021.

The poll asked GB residents whether and how they intend to vote if there were an imminent general election.

The headline voting intention is shown in the highlighted column:

PartyVote share at GE2019Seats won at GE 2019Polling Estimated Vote SharePredicted Seats Won
CON45%36530%236
LAB33%20338%320
LIB12%1110%11
Reform2%27%0
Green3%110%1

This is still a dramatic swing away from the Conservatives, although in a different direction from the by-election result. Our national poll shows a swing to Labour which would be large enough to make Keir Starmer the new Prime Minister. Our prediction is that Labour could win 320 seats, which is just 6 seats short of an overall majority.

What voters think

Our poll also asked voters about their perceptions of the government and its recent difficulties.

Some commentators have suggested that the Christmas party scandal and sleaze issues makes the government appear selfish, elitist and uncaring. Others have suggested that a perception of government incompetence could be more damaging. To find out whether either or both of these is worrying the public, we asked some further questions of our sample.

Q1. "Do you trust the government less as a result of reports of a Christmas party in Downing Street in December last year?"

ReponsesPercentage of all voters respondingPercentage of Conservative voters responding
Yes, I trust the government less64%42%
No, I trust the government all the same24%46%
Don't know12%12%

A strong majority of the public reports trusts the government less following reports of a Downing Street Christmas party last year. Even 42% of Conservative voters have less trust in the government because of this.

Q2. "Do you think the government is competent?"

ReponsesPercentage of all voters respondingPercentage of Conservative voters responding
Yes22%49%
No63%33%
Don’t know16%18%
Reponses Percentage of all voters responding Percentage of Conservative voters responding Yes 22% 49% No 63% 33% Don't know 16% 18%

Another equally strong majority of the public does not think the government is competent. This extends to 33% of those who voted Conservative in 2019.

Q3. "How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements about the current government?"

StatementAgree (net)NeutralDisagree (net)Don't know
This government can relate to ordinary people10%15%72%3%
This government is in it for themselves69%16%12%3%
This government is on the side of ordinary people10%17%70%3%

Very large majorities of the public think that the current government cannot relate to ordinary people, is in it for themselves, and are not on the side of ordinary people.

Looking just at those who voted Conservative at the last general election, the results are

StatementAgree (net)NeutralDisagree (net)Don't know
This government can relate to ordinary people25%31%44%1%
This government is in it for themselves43%29%27%2%
This government is on the side of ordinary people24%34%41%2%
Even among Conservative voters, more people perceived the government as out of touch and self-centred than took the opposite view.

Taken together, these questions show the public have lost trust in the government, do not think it is competent, and think that it is out-of-touch and self-interested.

Quotes

Chris Holbrook, CEO of Find Out Now: "We've become accustomed to this government's ability to shrug off its problems, but it looks as if recent events may finally have stripped Johnson's teflon coat. It remains to be seen whether the damage will sustain until the next General Election, but his party might act sooner."

Martin Baxter, CEO of Electoral Calculus: "Both the by-election and our poll bring grim news for the government. As well as being rejected by voters in Shropshire North, the Conservatives are also losing support nationally and would be unlikely to remain in government. The public, including many Conservative voters, think the government is out-of-touch, selfish and incompetent."

"Boris Johnson will hope that things look better for him in after Christmas, but the year ends with the Conservatives in their worst position since he took over as leader."

Technical Details

Find Out Now polled 1,017 GB adults online between 14-15 December 2021. The sample was weighted to be representative by gender, age, social grade, other demographics and past voting patterns. Find Out Now and Electoral Calculus are both members of the British Polling Council and abide by its rules.

Data Tables

Data tables are available here.