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Helen Morgan: who is Liberal Democrats North Shropshire MP who won by-election - and where is Owen Patterson?

Harmer Hill resident Morgan beat Conservative candidate Neil Shastri-Hurst by nearly 6,000 votes

The Liberal Democrats have overturned a large Tory majority to win the North Shropshire by-election in a victory that will pile further pressure on Boris Johnson.

In one of the most comprehensive by-election defeats in recent decades, the Conservatives lost what was an ultra-safe seat to Lib Dem Helen Morgan by 5,925 votes.

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The Prime Minister’s authority was dealt another blow, with the swing to the Lib Dems a massive 34 per cent in the ballot triggered by the resignation of Owen Paterson.

The former minister had a near-23,000 majority in the West Midlands constituency in the 2019 general election when Johnson achieved a landslide, but support for the Conservatives has since evaporated as the Tories battle damning allegations on multiple fronts.

Not only was the vote triggered by the sleaze scandal centred on Paterson, it came after the Prime Minister has been beset by claims of lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street.

Morgan won 17,957 votes, knocking Tory candidate Neil Shastri-Hurst into second on 12,032.

But who is she, what is her experience as a politician, and what will she bring to her new, North Shropshire seat?

Here is everything you need to know about her.

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Who is Helen Morgan?

Morgan, a 46-year-old accountant who lives in the Shropshire village of Harmer Hill with her family, will become the newest MP having beaten Shastri-Hurst, a barrister based in Birmingham.

Morgan was born and raised in the rural West Midlands. She studied history at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge, and has lived in North Shropshire since 2014.

Away from politics and her financial career, Morgan has run half-marathons to raise money for numerous charities and has volunteered as a trustee for a local nursery.

According to her website, Morgan “has a proven record of campaigning for a better deal for local communities in North Shropshire.

She has been fighting to improve safety on rural roads after winning a seat on her local parish council, and when the pandemic hit, Morgan helped set up a Covid response group to make sure vulnerable people got the support they needed.

What has Morgan said?

Morgan used her victory speech to thank party activists and to attack what she described as Boris Johnson’s “lies and bluster”.

The new MP made her speech immediately after the result was declared in the early hours of 17 December, and said party campaigners’ efforts had “delivered a gift of hope to our country, just in time for Christmas.”

Speaking from the podium at Shrewsbury Sports Village, she praised her “incredible” campaign team for their efforts in the most challenging circumstances.

Liberal Democrat candidate Helen Morgan speaks after being elected as Member of Parliament for North Shropshire at the by-election count centre in Shrewsbury (Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Although few party supporters were allowed into the indoor bowling green where the result was declared, she told those present: “Tonight, the people of North Shropshire have spoken on behalf of the British people. They have said loudly and clearly: ‘Boris Johnson, the party is over’.

“Your Government, run on lies and bluster, will be held accountable. It will be scrutinised, it will be challenged and it can and will be defeated.

“Tonight the people of North Shropshire have said enough is enough. They have said that you are unfit to lead and that they want a change.”

What will she bring to North Shropshire?

Morgan also used her speech to attack the Prime Minister’s conduct, and said the people of the constituency had told him “enough is enough.”

She said of Johnson: “Instead of taking action to help Shropshire’s NHS, you spend your time seeking questionable donations to refurbish your flat.

“Instead of taking action to support Shropshire’s farmers, you spend your time misleading the nation on how you and your office partied during lockdown. Tonight the people of North Shropshire have said enough is enough.

“These are testing times for our country. Our NHS, as we know here in Shropshire, is teetering on the brink. Our rural economy is in a precarious state with people’s livelihoods at risk.

“My priorities are your priorities – improving our local ambulance service, GPs and hospitals. Supporting our farmers and defending our rural way of life. Helping our communities through this new wave of Covid.

“As your MP, I promise I will work for you and only you. I will always put local people and our communities first.”

What happened to Owen Paterson?

The by-election was triggered by Owen Paterson’s resignation.

Paterson represented the constituency for 24 years until his resignation after the Prime Minister’s failed attempt to shield him from a 30-day suspension.

Johnson attempted to force a Tory-led review of the rules for MPs after Paterson was found to have breached lobbying rules for two companies paying him £100,000 a year.

Multiple fresh allegations of sleaze were levelled at the Tories during the row, and ultimately the MP was forced to resign, saying he wanted to escape the “cruel world of politics”.

North Shropshire had returned a Tory MP in every vote since 1983, which was the constituency’s first election in its current form.

But the Brexit-backing area has been true blue, only twice voting for another colour, since the Conservative Party’s inception in 1830.

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