The UK’s ruling Conservative Party lost one of its English strongholds in a parliamentary by-election.
Helen Morgan, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the seat in North Shropshire, won by nearly 6,000 votes over the Conservative candidate, gathering about 47% of the vote, according to official results.
The election was triggered following the resignation in November of MP Owen Paterson following a lobbying scandal that saw accusations of corruption lobbed at the government for its attempt to skirt rules and keep Paterson in his role.
It comes amid a difficult time for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. His administration is engulfed by accusations parties were held at the heart of government last year that were against COVID restrictions at the time.
In Thursday’s vote, the Conservatives — who have always held the North Shropshire seat and had a 22,900 majority following the 2019 general election — came second, followed by the candidate from the main opposition Labour Party.
Turnout was down, with just 46.3% of the constituency’s electorate casting their vote, down from above 62% in the 2019 election.
Morgan, 46, said in her speech after the results were announced that the voters have made it “clear” to Boris Johnson that “the party is over”.
“Your government, led by lies and bluster, will be held to account,” she also said, adding that “it can and will be defeated”.
The Liberal Democrats called in a “stunning victory in what was one of the safest Conservative seats in the country” on Twitter.
“This sends a clear message to Boris Johnson: The party is over,” it added.
It is the first time that the constituency will be represented by a non-Conservative MP.
The defeat cap a few turbulent weeks for the British Prime Minister, which have dented his and the Conservatives’ popularity in the polls.
Johnson also suffered a massive rebellion of Conservative lawmakers earlier this week — the biggest since he took office — when 100 of them voted against his plans to introduce new COVID measures, including the introduction of a vaccine passport to access nightclubs and large venues.
The new measures, which were approved because of support from the Labour party, were announced to counter the spread of the new Omicron variant with Johnson warning of an upcoming “tidal wave” of infections.
More than 88,300 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed across the UK on Thursday — a new record. It beat the previous high, recorded the day before, of over 78,600.