Votes are being counted in the Chesham and Amersham by-election, with the Liberal Democrats confident of a big swing towards them – and possibly even a spectacular win in the historically safe Conservative seat.
Turnout was 52% in the contest, with the Lib Dems hoping to seize a seat which has been Tory since its creation in 1974.
Chesham and Amersham, named after the market towns in the constituency, has had just two MPs in its history, Sir Ian Gilmour until 1992, and former Welsh secretary Dame Cheryl Gillan until her death in April.
Former Ford executive Peter Fleet is the Tory candidate but he has faced a tough challenge from Lib Dem Sarah Green.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey has been a regular fixture in the constituency during the campaign in efforts to win over voters, while Boris Johnson also made an appearance in the run-up to the by-election.
Dame Cheryl took the seat with a majority of 16,233 in the 2019 general election, more than half of the vote, so a Lib Dem victory would be a major shock.
Sir Ed, who made a polling day visit to the seat, said: “I really think it’s going to be on a knife-edge tonight, I don’t know which way it’s going to go.
“If we can get that vote out (it) may be something really spectacular, it will certainly be a really big swing to the Liberal Democrats.”
I’m here at Chesham HQ with less than 5 hours till the polls close. It’s on a knife edge! If you can, pop over to help out for the final push! pic.twitter.com/glMyMRjHU8
— Ed Davey MP 🔶🇪🇺 (@EdwardJDavey) June 17, 2021
As polls closed Ms Green said: “Whatever happens tonight, people in Chesham and Amersham know they will no longer be taken for granted.”
Conservative sources have indicated that they expect to retain the seat but fear a much reduced majority.
I have loved every minute of this campaign.
From the doorstep conversations to the warm welcomes visiting local businesses and community groups.
Whatever happens tonight, people in Chesham and Amersham know they will no longer be taken for granted.
— Sarah Green (@SarahGreenLD) June 17, 2021
The party has concentrated its efforts on getting its support out to vote, fearing that a low turnout would play into Lib Dem hands.
Mr Fleet tweeted a picture less than an hour before polls closed on Thursday night showing the efforts to rally support, despite the wet weather.
Labour polled third in the 2019 general election, but by-election candidate Natasa Pantelic will be hoping to improve on the party’s performance.
Meanwhile, Carolyne Culver is standing for the Green Party, Brendan Donnelly for Rejoin EU, Alex Wilson for Reform UK, Carla Gregory for Breakthrough Party and Adrian Oliver for Freedom Alliance.
Dame Cheryl, who served as Welsh secretary between May 2010 and September 2012, died at the age of 68 on April 4 following a lengthy illness.
She was a long-term opponent of HS2, which will run through the seat and has been one of the key issues in the campaign.