Ministers are waking up this morning to a big Tory upset in North Shropshire. In the by-election sparked by the Owen Paterson sleaze row, the Liberal Democrats have won the seat from the Conservatives overturning a majority of 22,949. In what has long been regarded as a safe seat for the Tories (they have come out on top in the area for almost 200 years), the Liberal Democrats won 17,957 votes with the Conservatives managing just 12,032 votes. This gives the Lib Dems a majority of 5,925. Labour came third with 3,686 votes.
The result is striking for several reasons. As I first reported last month, there were Tory nerves over the vote ever since Paterson made the decision to quit the Commons following a botched attempt by Downing Street to stay his suspension for a breach of the lobbying rules.