Politics

North Shropshire by-election polls: Will Tories hold the seat at centre of sleaze scandal?

Boris Johnson is grilled on the handling of Owen Paterson saga

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North Shropshire has been a Conservative stronghold since its creation in 1983. However, the seat currently stands empty, after the resignation of MP Owen Paterson who was found to have breached parliamentary rules on lobbying, with constituents called to a by-election on December 16.

What are the polls showing?

The Conservative Party is suffering across the UK in the polls.

However, this isn’t unusual for a party mid-term, and last week’s by-election result in Old Bexley and Sidcup, in which the Tories held the seat, will be providing some relief for the ruling party.

But that seat had one major difference: Its by-election was triggered by the death of a much-loved and respected MP, James Brokenshire, who died of lung cancer in October.

The seat of North Shropshire, however, has been at the centre of a sleaze scandal that has rocked the very fabric of the Conservative Party and shaken up Westminster.

This makes it the perfect seat for aggressive campaigning from opposition parties.

A leaked poll carried out by the Liberal Democrats suggested the by-election could prove much tighter than the Tories might hope.

The party’s internal polling, based on postal voting intention only, put Tory candidate Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst 9.9 points ahead of Liberal Democrat challenger Helen Morgan.

The poll put the Conservatives on 47.7 percent, the Lib Dems on 37.8 percent, and Labour candidate Ben Wood on 10.5 percent, and Green candidate Duncan Kerr on 1.9 percent.

Polling analyst British Electoral Politics said the survey should be treated with some scepticism: “Since it is an internal one, we can’t know the methodology so naturally it requires a pinch of salt.”

But a spokesman added that a similar poll for the Chesham and Amersham by-election gave the Conservatives a lead of 23.8 points, with the Liberal Democrats going on to win.

The Liberal Democrats have been accused of deliberately leaking the poll in an effort to encourage Labour and Green supporters to vote tactically.

But this doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant, and the Conservatives will be getting nervous.

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The situation won’t have been much aided by Prime Minister Boris Johnson getting the Tory candidate’s name wrong on a visit to the constituency last week.

Mr Johnson visited Oswestry in North Shropshire on Friday to give his party a campaign boost, but accidentally referred to Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst as Dr Neil Shastri-Hughes.

Speaking to reporters, the PM said the Dr Shastri-Hurst – a former British Army medical officer and honorary NHS consultant who now works as a barrister – was a “fantastic” candidate.

But he went on to address him incorrectly, saying: “I think we’ve got a fantastic candidate, Dr Neil Shastri-Hughes, who I’ve just been seen contributing already to the life of the community by vaccinating people, he’s a doctor amongst his many other talents and what he’s also going to do is work very, very hard for the people of North Shropshire.”

Who are the candidates?

In alphabetical order, the candidates in the North Shropshire by-election are:

  • Suzie Akers Smith, Independent
  • Andrea Allen, UKIP
  • Boris Been-Bunged, Rejoin EU
  • Martin Daubney, The Reclaim Party
  • Russell Dean, The Party Party
  • James Elliot, Heritage Party
  • Alan ‘Howling Laud’ Hope, Official Monster Raving Loony Party
  • Earl Jesse, Freedom Alliance
  • Yolande Kenward
  • Duncan Kerr, Green Party
  • Helen Morgan, Liberal Democrats
  • Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst, Conservatives
  • Kirsty Walmsley, Reform UK
  • Ben Wood, Labour

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