Lib Dem chartered accountant wins by-electionby
Liberal Democrat Helen Morgan triumphed in the largely rural constituency of North Shropshire to turn a 23,000 Tory majority into a margin of 5,925 votes.
The accountancy profession has a new representative at Westminster after tactical anti-Conservative voting helped chartered accountant Helen Morgan achieve a mid-term upset victory.
Morgan stood for the Liberal Democrats in North Shropshire in the 2019 general election and came third with 10% of the vote. For this campaign, however, her party threw everything at this contest, mobilising people and funds from all corners of the country.
In her victory speech Morgan thanked the Labour supporters who lent her their votes, and the Conservative voters, who she said “are dismayed by Boris Johnson’s lack of decency and fed up with being taken for granted”.
The new MP also had a message for the Prime Minister: “Boris Johnson, the party is over”.
Morgan qualified as a chartered accountant with KPMG. She then specialised in the energy industry, with senior roles at Centrica and British Gas.
For the last six years she has worked as the financial controller at with a local building firm, alongside raising her family and her formidable political campaigning.
As the newest Lib Dem MP, Helen will join 12 other Lib Dems in Parliament, a group which is now 69% female.
The 35% swing that Morgan achieved in North Shropshire was the seventh biggest in history. The turnout was 46%, but that’s as expected for a by-election in December. However, the Tories did lose half of their share of the vote, indicating that many Conservative voters simply stayed at home.
Some commentators suggested this could be the beginning of the end for Prime Minister Johnson, if his backbenchers turn on him. Removing Johnson from his post would require a vote of no-confidence, which can only be triggered by at least 54 Conservative MPs writing to the chair of the 1922 committee.
If he lost the no-confidence vote Johnson would be removed as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. The Tories would then have a leadership election to install their chosen chosen candidate to lead the country, without running a general election.
Reason for the vote
The by-election was called after the incumbent, Owen Patterson, resigned as an MP as he was found to have breached the parliamentary lobbying rules.
The independent parliamentary standards commissioner Kathryn Stone found that he repeatedly acted as a paid advocate for two companies (Randox group and Lynn’s Country Foods), which paid him £100,000 per year. She recommended a 30-day suspension from Parliament.
This sanction would have allowed his constituents to mount a recall petition and if that was signed by 10% of the registered voters the seat would become vacant, and a by-election would be held.
The standards commissioner’s decision was upheld unanimously by the cross-party House of Commons standards committee. However, instead of accepting the punishment for one of his loyal supporters, Johnson planned to overhaul the standards regime for MPs, making it more legalistic. This came in for strong criticism from the opposition parties. Johnson dropped this plan within a matter of days and Patterson announced he was quitting parliament for good.
Accountants in parliament
To gauge the profession’s political influence, AccountingWEB likes to track the political fortunes of accountants who stand for Parliament.
In the 2019 General Election there were 50 candidates who held accountancy qualifications or worked in a finance role. Twenty-two of those hopefuls were elected, giving the “accountancy party” an influential position in Westminster, with several Tory accountants gaining ministerial positions.
The Conservatives put up 23 accountants at the last general election, but the Lib Dems weren’t far behind in our league table with 19 finance-related candidates. However, 18 of the successful candidates were Tories in 2019, while only one accountant was elected under a Lib Dem banner – Sarah Onley in Richmond Park.
The Scottish Nationalists had a 100% success rate with their three accountant candidates in the general election. However, the Labour Party fielded exactly zero accountants in 2019, and thus have no accountants on the Labour benches.