With the Conservative Party losing sizeable majorities in yesterdays by elections, the Liberal Democrat candidate contesting the Henley and Thame seat said he is ready to replicate the party’s success in Oxfordshire.

The results of the by elections in Somerton and Frome, in Somerset, and Selby and Ainsty, in North Yorkshire, will have delivered a blow to the Conservative Party’s hopes of returning as the largest party at the next general election.

In Selby, Labour’s Keir Mather was successful in overturning a 20,000 Conservative majority and the Lib Dem’s Sarah Dyke overturned a majority of 19,000 in Somerton and Frome.

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Oxford Mail: Ed Davey celebrating the Lib Dem's by election successEd Davey celebrating the Lib Dem's by election success (Image: Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

After Henley MP John Howell announced he was standing down at the next election, speculation surrounding who will contest the Henley and Thame seat on behalf of the Conservatives has been rampant, with former prime minister Boris Johnson even being linked with the seat.

However, the Liberal Democrat’s parliamentary candidate Freddie Van Mierlo has said the by election results show “a successful challenge to the Tories is absolutely possible” in the blue wall seat.

Mr Van Mierlo said: “The results show the Lib Dems will be the clear challengers in blue wall seats.

“We do not have a ceiling to our vote, and this cannot be said for the Labour Party and Green Party.”

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Mr Van Mierlo said the party had been busy “building up campaigning capacity” since the local elections in May as it remained uncertain when the next general election would come.

He said: “We know as Lib Dems we need to work three times as hard to get our message out and that is what we are doing.”

Oxford Mail: Freddie Van Mierlo- the Lib Dem's candidate to contest the Henley seatFreddie Van Mierlo- the Lib Dem's candidate to contest the Henley seat (Image: Freddie Van Mierlo)

At the end of last month, South Oxfordshire Conservative Association was forced to send a letter to prospective candidates informing them that the party’s election process would need to be re-run due to “breaches”.

Initially reported in the Express, in a message sent from the director of candidates Matt Lane, it said: I write to inform you that due to breaches of the parliamentary candidate selection process, the party board have this afternoon decided to abandon the current selection process of the Henley constituency.

"This vacancy will be readvertised in due course."

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At the time, a Conservative source at the association told the Oxford Mail this message had been leaked to the press deliberately and was under investigation.

Mr Van Mierlo said the Conservative Party’s selection process for the Henley seat had demonstrated that the “local association is as chaotic as the national party”.

Mr Howell won a 14,053 seat majority in 2019 and this meant the Conservative Party won 54,8 per cent of the vote share.

Despite this large majority, Mr Van Mierlo said the by election results were evidence that sizeable majorities could be overturned.

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He said: “The Selby by election result shows that traditional Conservative voters are not happy how the party has performed.”

Mr Van Mierlo said beating the Tories in Henley was “feasible” as the party only needed to win 7,000 Conservative voters.

The Green Party candidate is Cllr Jo Robb, who represents Woodcote and Rotherfield on South Oxfordshire District Councillor.

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About the author 

To sign up to Ed's weekly Politics newsletter, click here: https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/newsletters/

Ed specialises in writing political stories for the Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times. 

He joined in the team in February 2023, after completing a History undergraduate degree at the University of York and studying for his NCTJ diploma in London.

Ed’s weekly politics newsletter is released every Saturday morning.