Boris Johnson’s handling of the Owen Paterson sleaze scandal was the ‘kiss of death’ for the Tories

Andy Whitemore, 73, reflected on the result while out shopping with his wife Alison. “I’m not surprised [Morgan’s] won,” says Andy.

The pair had also noticed the strength of the Lib Dem campaign, which even included handwritten notes from the candidate. “It said: ‘Dear Andrew and Alison’,” says Alison. “I thought it was a Christmas card from my family in New Zealand.”

Halfway through the morning, the Lib Dems held a victory rally in the town square, where Morgan addressed a few dozen people holding orange placards. They took up most of the square on a market day, but residents didn’t seem annoyed by their presence. “Thank goodness someone did something,” mutters one man.

Even the Liberal Democrats themselves don’t seem too surprised, as internal polling had pointed towards a victory for the past fortnight. “We were more bullish than we should have been, and yesterday we were incredibly confident,” says Francis Thomas, a political assistant for the party who is based in Manchester. “Voters were angry at the corruption locally and the parties in Downing Street: people saw this as a way to get Johnson out.”

‘I can’t vote for that charlatan’

Before the election, there was talk about getting either Labour or the Liberal Democrats to step aside in the election and to share votes in a “Progressive Alliance”. Officially, this didn’t happen, but it appears to have occurred in practice: “I spoke to Corbynites who voted for us too,” says Thomas. “They realised that we have a lot more in common than against, and a common enemy.”

There were hints of this result when the Telegraph followed the Conservative candidate Neil Shastri-Hurst as he knocked on doors last week. Reporters watched as he spoke to Pearl Morris, a lifelong Conservative voter who had a campaign poster in her front window. But even her vote wasn’t secure: “I can’t vote for that charlatan you have got in charge. Next time round, he’ll have gone, won’t he? And you can have [my vote] back. But I really can’t vote for him,” she said.

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