The shock result in Chesham and Amersham isn’t just about HS2. Deeper shifts are occurring that ought to worry the Tories
Four days ago, a former insider at a London-based thinktank wrote a piece for the Spectator about the forthcoming Chesham and Amersham byelection, and his sense that this overlooked political episode would soon be over, with the minimum of fuss. “Hopefully then we can stop hearing any rubbish about how the Lib Dems are set to tear down the Conservatives’ ‘blue wall’ in the home counties,” he wrote. “As the campaign has demonstrated, the Lib Dems are miles away from being able to cause such an upset.” He ended with a prediction he evidently felt was beyond question: “The Lib Dems will lose on Thursday, most likely fairly badly, and they will have no one to blame but themselves.”
Election predictions are often a mug’s game, not least in a political climate as febrile and strange as ours is currently. But while the media largely stayed away, the Liberal Democrats’ unexpected success in suburban Buckinghamshire – where their vote jumped by 30 percentage points, while the Tories’ dropped by 20 – went with the grain of a slowly emerging shift that some of us have been following for the past three or four years, which is much cultural as political.