The Guardian view on the Liberal Democrats: seeing and shaping politics | Editorial
Clearly the death of Liberal England has been prematurely foretold, but more will be needed to turn a stunning byelection win into a successful revival
It is often hard to try to derive a national message from a single byelection. The effect on party morale usually dwarfs that felt on government policy. The election of Liberal Democrat Sarah Green as the MP for Chesham and Amersham, a commuter-belt seat north-west of London, stuns on both counts. The result will make Conservative MPs in relatively liberal and educated constituencies very jumpy. But it will also slow the progress of Boris Johnson’s planning reforms. Voters in bucolic Buckinghamshire plainly feared that these would make it easier for developers to concrete over the countryside.
What the result shows is that the Liberal Democrat cause is not a hopeless one. With just 11 parliamentarians and languishing at 7% in national polls, Sir Ed Davey appeared to be taking his depleted ranks and marching them towards the sound of gunfire. Chesham and Amersham has been held by the Conservatives since its creation in 1974. Yet Ms Green overturned a 16,000-strong Tory majority to take the seat by just over 8,000 votes, a swing of 25%, and upset the odds. The energy of the Tories’ vaccine bounce seems dissipated. Clearly the death of Liberal England has been prematurely foretold.