The Liberal Democrats have signalled they are on “battle stations” for the next election in the wake of their two shock mid-term wins in traditional Tory seats last year.
Leader Sir Ed Davey said the party is preparing to “turn the Blue Wall yellow”, with its sights set on Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab’s constituency of Esher and Walton in Surrey.
The Lib Dems will also target what they describe as narrow Conservative majorities held by Steven Brine in Winchester, Hampshire, and William Wragg in Hazel Grove, Greater Manchester.
As part of its “campaigning blitz”, next week the party will be launching a new “fighting fund”, which will take donations to “expand ground operations” in key seats following its momentous by-election victories over the Tories in 2021.
North Shropshire upset
In December, the Lib Dems overturned a massive Conservative majority to take the North Shropshire seat by almost 6,000 votes.
The by-election was triggered by Owen Paterson resigning in disgrace after being found to have breached lobbying rules, following an abortive attempt by the Tories to prevent him serving a 30-day suspension.
Earlier in 2021, the Lib Dems overturned another big Tory majority in the Chesham and Amersham by-election – a moment that Sir Ed said would “send a shockwave through British politics”.
But by then the Conservatives had also celebrated a significant mid-term victory of their own, winning the Hartlepool constituency in May for the first time since it was created almost 50 years previously.
And the Tories went on retain the Old Bexley and Sidcup seat in December, albeit with a reduced majority.
Announcing the Lib Dems’ latest election drive, Sir Ed said: “The North Shropshire by-election confirmed the Liberal Democrats are back as a formidable campaigning force in British politics, and that millions of disaffected Conservative voters are looking to us as an alternative.
“We are now on battle stations and getting ready to turn the Blue Wall yellow at the next election.
“Our thousands of campaigners are buoyed by our stunning wins in former Conservative heartlands, from Shropshire to Buckinghamshire.
“We will now be looking carefully at how to replicate these stunning wins in dozens of marginal Conservative seats across the country.
“Last month showed the Liberal Democrats are the only credible challengers to the Conservatives in their traditional heartlands. There is no route to removing Boris Johnson’s Conservatives from power without us winning many more seats.”