North Shropshire by-election: Conservatives beaten by Lib Dems
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The Liberal Democrats overturned a huge Conservative majority to win the seat in the West Midlands. Veteran broadcaster Mr Neil said the bruising loss was “self-inflicted” by the Prime Minister.
The ex-BBC presenter pointed out Mr Johnson’s attempt to shield Owen Paterson from a 30-day suspension after he was found to have breached lobbying rules.
Taking to Twitter, Mr Neil said: “If Boris Johnson had not allowed himself to be talked into trying to ‘save’ Owen Paterson by Tory toffs from parliamentary discipline rightly coming his way, North Shropshire would be this morning a Tory seat with 23,000 majority + Paterson still MP. Talk about self-inflicted.”
Another Twitter user, Richard Elkin, replied to Mr Neil: “Paterson should have just worked off his suspension. He would have been back by now.”
The veteran broadcaster added: “Exactly. And there would have been no by-election. Entirely self-inflicted disaster.”
Mr Neil’s comments come after the Tories lost what was an ultra-safe seat to Lib Dem Helen Morgan by 5,925 votes.
Ms Morgan won 17,957 votes, with Tory candidate Neil Shastri-Hurst in second on 12,032.
The humiliating defeat is a fresh blow to the embattled Prime Minister’s authority.
Mr Paterson, who represented the constituency for 24 years, had a near-23,000 majority in North Shropshire in the 2019 general election.
The by-election was triggered when the former minister resigned over a sleaze row.
Mr Johnson attempted to force a Tory-led review of the rules for MPs after Mr Paterson was found to have breached lobbying rules for two companies paying him £100,000 a year.
The move sparked a backlash and the MP resigned, saying he wanted to escape the “cruel world of politics”.
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The by-election loss comes at a turbulent time for the Prime Minister.
Mr Johnson has been at the centre of an ongoing row over alleged rule-breaking parties last Christmas when coronavirus restrictions were in force.
He also faced his biggest rebellion since entering No 10 this week with 100 Tory backbenchers defying him to vote against Covid passports for large venues.
Asked on Wednesday if Mr Johnson would quit if North Shropshire falls, the Prime Minister’s press secretary said: “We are fighting for every vote.”
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said following his party’s victory: “This result is a watershed moment in our politics and offers hope to people around the country that a brighter future is possible.
“Millions of people are fed up with Boris Johnson and his failure to provide leadership throughout the pandemic and last night the voters of North Shropshire spoke for all of them.
“From Buckinghamshire to Shropshire, lifelong Conservatives have turned to the Liberal Democrats in their droves and sent a clear message to the Prime Minister that the party is over.”
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