Sir Ed Davey said the Liberal Democrats could challenge the Conservatives for Mid-Bedfordshire, as Matthew Hudson reports.
The Liberal Democrats are targeting Mid Bedfordshire to pull off a shock victory after Nadine Dorries' resignation.
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey visited the constituency on Monday to kick-start his party's by-election campaign just days after the former culture secretary quit on Friday.
The party see Mid Bedfordshire as a winnable target after achieving massive swings to take so-called Blue Wall seats in traditional Conservative supporting areas of South of England.
Sir Ed said he believes the constituency would be "a close race" between his party and an "out-of-touch" Tory Party.
Ms Dorries, who has been MP for Mid Bedfordshire since 2005, won 60% of the vote at the 2019 general election - securing a 24,000 majority.
Her resignation came before Boris Johnson's resignation honours were published, with Ms Dorries not included in the list despite reportedly being put forward for a peerage.
She has blamed her second job workload as a broadcaster and newspaper columnist for wanting to leave the Commons immediately.
A date for the Mid-Bedfordshire by-election has not yet been announced, but Labour and the Lib Dems are already preparing to attempt big swings to gain the seat from the Conservatives.
Mid-Bedfordshire: The key numbers
In 2019, Labour received a 22% vote share, with Lib Dems further behind on 13%;
For Labour to win the seat, one in five people who voted Conservative in 2019 would have to switch allegiance;
The Lib Dems would need nearly one in four Tory voters to switch directly to Sir Ed Davey's party to win the seat.
A swing of 23.6% for the Lib Dems to win the seat would not be unheard of.
Last June, the party won the seat of Tiverton & Honiton from the Conservatives on a swing of 29.9%.
Sir Ed said: “The British public have had enough of the endless Conservative party sleaze and scandal.
“Next month, people across Bedfordshire have the chance to finally get rid of this chaotic sham of a government.
“Mid-Bedfordshire will be a close race between the Liberal Democrats and an out-of-touch Conservative Party.
“This Conservative government is taking people for granted; from spiralling mortgage rates, to record NHS waiting lists and sewage in rivers.”
A number of Conservative MPs spent the weekend campaigning in the constituency, with Tory chairman Greg Hands on Sunday posting pictures of himself in the area ahead of what he predicted would be a “keenly contested” by-election.
Labour campaign co-ordinator Shabana Mahmood also visited over the weekend, posting on Saturday that “only” her party could “turn the page on the Tories and their 13 years of failure”.
Three forthcoming by-elections will challenge Tory seats after Ms Dorries, Mr Johnson and Nigel Adams resigned within 24 hours of each other.
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