The Libs Dems have fired a warning shot to the Conservatives ahead of the next general election by selecting their first candidate for what the party is calling the Blue Wall.
Former borough councillor and parliamentary candidate Zoe Franklin has been chosen to take on the Tories once again in Guildford - where the current Conservative MP Angela Richardson holds a slender majority of just 3,337 votes - in the 2024 poll.
The Blue Wall refers to constituencies in the south where the Conservatives have traditionally performed the strongest of the parties, including in Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire.
But there are jitters among Conservatives that as Boris Johnson courts new voters in the north’s Red Wall he is at risk of losing the support of the party’s traditional voter base in the affluent south.
Their fears were substantiated following the by-election upset in Chesham and Amersham, Buckinghamshire, where the Lib Dems overturned a 16,000 Conservative majority to win the seat for the first time.
Also at risk is Esher and Walton, the neighbouring seat to Guildford where foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who is under pressure to resign over the Afghanistan crisis, clings on by 2,743 votes.
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey believes voters in Guildford feel “ignored” by a Conservative party they feel to be “out of touch with their values and priorities”.
“The Conservatives have taken Guildford for granted,” he told HuffPost UK.
“In Boris Johnson, they see a prime minister who has failed to show any signs of leadership to get this country through a national crisis.
“From his botched handling of the pandemic, to the shame of needing Marcus Rashford to pressure him into providing free school meals for children, it is no wonder voters in the Blue Wall are turning their back on this government.”
Davey said there were already cracks in the Conservative armour in Surrey, where the Lib Dems picked up five seats from the Tories on Surrey county council, and that Raab should be “looking over his shoulder and feeling the heat”.
“He [Raab] is another classic example of a Conservative MP who is no longer fit to represent the people of Surrey.
“His decision to not return from holiday in a national crisis will be judged harshly. If he won’t resign his cabinet job, then it will be up to the Liberal Democrats to win his constituency at the next election.”
Franklin added: “There is no doubt how badly the foreign secretary’s actions have gone down in our area, as well as other Conservative MPs rushing to his defence.
“I am delighted to have been reselected as the parliamentary candidate for Guildford, Cranleigh and our villages. Guildford has been my home for over 20 years and I am determined to be the local champion our local communities need.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.