Although the Liberal Democrats had hoped to pull off a surprise victory, the size of their majority was striking and unexpected. Ed Davey, the leader of the party, described the result as “a watershed moment,” adding in a statement, “Millions of people are fed up with Boris Johnson and his failure to provide leadership throughout the pandemic, and last night, the voters of North Shropshire spoke for all of them.”
On Friday, Mr. Johnson said he accepted responsibility for the result. “I totally understand people’s frustrations,” he said. “I hear what the voters are saying in North Shropshire. In all humility, I’ve got to accept that verdict.”
However, in an interview with Sky News, he also appeared to blame the news media, saying that “in the last few weeks, some things have been going very well, but what the people have been hearing is just a constant litany of stuff about politics and politicians.”
Oliver Dowden, the chairman of the Conservative Party, also acknowledged the scale of the defeat. “I know that voters in North Shropshire are fed up, and I know that they have given us a kicking,” he told the BBC, adding that he and his party had “heard that message from them loud and clear.”
Even before the loss of the seat, there was speculation that Mr. Johnson could face a formal challenge to his leadership little more than two years after he won a landslide general election victory in December 2019.
To initiate a no-confidence vote, 54 of Mr. Johnson’s lawmakers would have to write to Graham Brady, the chairman of the committee that represents Conservative backbenchers. Such letters are confidential, but analysts do not believe that prospect is close. Parliament is now in recess, giving the prime minister a short political breathing space.
Even so, Friday’s result is likely to increase jitters in Downing Street because North Shropshire was one of the Conservative Party’s safest seats, in an area of Britain that supported Brexit, Mr. Johnson’s defining political project.