Author Archives: Andy Boddington

Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in rural Shropshire and edits Lib Dem Voice on Fridays

Lib Dems take part in Kill the Bill protests around country

Lib Dems across the country joined protests across the country against the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Protests too place in London, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Plymouth, as well as a lot of smaller towns. The protests come ahead of a critical vote tomorrow in the House of Lords on amendments introduced in the Lords in November which greatly increase the authority of police to control protests including an increase in stop and search powers.

On Friday, Labour Lords belatedly said they will oppose the protest clauses. With the Lib Dems, Greens and independents opposing the restriction of the rights to protest, the amendments are likely to fall. As they were introduced in the Lords, they cannot be sent on to the Commons if peers vote against them.

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Millions face food or fuel choice as energy bills set to soar

There is nothing new about the fuel poverty issue. But this year, with retail prices and energy prices surging, and pop up energy suppliers failing, keeping people warm should be soaring up in the political agenda. But fuel poverty remains in the margins of Westminster thinking. Perhaps that will change today with a report from the Resolution Foundation warning that “2022 is set to be the ‘year of the squeeze'”.

The failure of the UK’s privatised and badly regulated energy market to anticipate and react to supply shocks including the surge in wholesale gas prices is shocking. The problem has been made worse by our country’s abysmal failure to reduce energy use by insulating homes. Vulnerable people shiver under blankets while the precious and expensive energy they pay for heating seeps out through the walls, doors and windows and vents through the roof.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the Warm Homes Discount to be doubled and expanded to support vulnerable households with their energy bills throughout the winter months. Ed Davey said:

“The Conservatives have totally failed to tackle the problem. They’ve scrapped insulation programmes that would have reduced people’s bills, cut support for the most vulnerable whilst increasing the UK’s dependence on imported gas, making our country more vulnerable too.”

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A Christmas Cracker of Covid Cheer? Perchance it is a dream…

Covid cases have been soaring across the UK and England just a few days ago been plummeting towards another lockdown or circuit breaker. We seemed destined to have a cracking Christmas followed by a New Year’s Eve singing Auld Lang Syne at a social distanced.

Yesterday, though, there was better news. Separate analyses published by Imperial College and Edinburgh University concurred with research funded by the South African Medical Research Council and a modelling exercise by a Danish institute. All four studies suggest Omicron will lead to less severe illness than Delta and less hospitalisation.

The results, which are provisional, look like a bonus for the NHS which is usually rammed to the rafters in winter and this year faces bigger than usual staff shortages due to self-isolation.

The studies are a huge boost for Boris Johnson, who’s premiership has been on the line over Covid restrictions (along with the loss of the North Shropshire by-election). He must make a decision in the next few days whether to follow Scotland and Wales in increasing restrictions, including cancelling New Year. His instinct will be to impose minimalist intervention rather than face letters of no confidence from his backbenchers.

But unless we “Jab the World” we are at risk of more waves of infection.

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Vince Cable says we could win 30 more seats in 2024

Writing in the Independent today, Vince Cable predicts: ”A realistic if optimistic outlook is that the Lib Dems could take 30 more Tory seats at the next general election.” Some may think that is ambitious but if we don’t have ambition we are never going to succeed.

He begins with Orpington, a by-election, on a massive 26 per cent swing in 1962. That was fifty years ago and the political quicksand has shifted since then. But it doesn’t mean that, buoyed by our successes in Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire, we can’t deliver 30 MPs.

The experience in North Shropshire was that people no longer talked about the coalition. Only the very left talks about that now. We need to stride forward. Build on the excitement and momentum that we have gained during 2021. Ensure that we can get more MPs elected in 2024.

Over to Vince Cable.

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Trade deal with Australia will hit our farmers

Tim Farron has warned that farmers are being “sold down the river” by the Conservatives, after it emerged the government’s own impact assessment found the Australia deal will cause a £94m hit to the farming, forestry and fishing industries. There is also an expected £225 million hit to the semi-processed food sector, such as tinned foods.

The Liberal Democrats are demanding that MPs are given a vote on the Australia deal so they can stand up for the interests of British farmers. It comes following the party’s by-election win in North Shropshire during which concerns over the impacts of government’s trade deals on local farmers were a significant issue. The deal is likely to hit small farmers, especially hill farmers hardest.

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Boris Johnson is sinking into pig manure. Has he had his day?

Is Johnson about to book the removal vans and move out of Downing Street? His stint as prime minister over? Yes please. Bring the vans in and bring the tenure of this increasingly hapless “leader” to an end.

At first thought, keeping Boris Johnson is good for us Lib Dems. His incompetence helped deliver the stunning North Shropshire result and get us our 13th MP. But his incompetence is now damaging our country. After Partygate, Peppagate, backbench rebellions and today, the resignation of Lord Frost, he increased looks as though he is up to his neck in Peppa poo.

As Oscar Wilde didn’t say: “To lose one by-election Mr Johnson, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” And there is that sense about Boris Johnson. Carelessness. The sense of not having a grip on the public mood and on the mood within his own party.

Is it time for him to walk the plank?

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Ed Davey on historic North Shropshire win and Keir Starmer pact

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey spoke to BBC reporter Justin Webb earlier this morning. He said he was proud of our party and our campaigners. We have brought hope to the whole nation by proving the Conservatives can be beaten anywhere. Brexit was not an issue in the by-election. Voters were more concerned about ambulances and GPs.

Ed is cool on a pact with Keir Starmer for the next general election but confident that we can make more inroads into the Blue Wall.

Here is the transcript.

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Helen Morgan acceptance speech: “ Johnson you are no leader”

What a victory! Nearly six thousand majority. There are huge implications for the government and Boris Johnson. We’ll cover those in later articles.

In her speech, she told the prime minister, Helen said:

Our country is crying out for leadership. Mr Johnson, you are no leader.

She told the voters in North Shropshire:

Your amazing efforts have delivered a gift of hope to our country, just in time for Christmas… I promise I will work for you and only you. I will always put local people and our communities first.

Helen said the NHS in Shropshire is teetering on the brink. The rural economy is in a precarious state.

Below, we report Helen’s acceptance speech in full. Here is the recording.

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++++Helen Morgan wins North Shropshire!!!

March the brass bands. Beat the drums. Sound the trombones. Honk the horns. Dance through the streets. Silence the soothsayers, those that thought this by-election couldn’t be won.

We won this by-election and won it well. Turning a 22,949 “unassailable” vote for the Tories into a stonking win for us. A Tory majority of votes transformed into a stunning vote for the Lib Dems. A swing to us of 34%, giving us a majority of 5,925.

Helen Morgan won this by-election. The team supporting her won it. The hundreds of Lib Dem activists from around the country won it. Our national team won it. Ed Davey won it. Our MPs won it. Now they are 13 strong.

This was not just a bloody nose for Boris Johnson and the Conservatives. It was a bloody good win for the Lib Dems.

  • Lib Dems: 17,957
  • Conservatives: 12,032
  • Labour: 3,686
  • Green: 1,738
  • Reform: 1,127

We must now ensure that Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire are just the beginning. We have taken some hard knocks as a party in recent years. But now we have picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves off. We have shown that we again can be winners. Winning here. Winning everywhere.

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Johnson’s nightmare Plan B debate – Lib Dem speeches (videos)

I used to look forward to a visit to the ice cream after school. “99”, I would cry out. Now 99 has a new meaning. It is the number of Conservative that rebelled against the prime minister on his Plan B yesterday evening. That vote has weakened his authority in his party, by which I mean the political party. A threat to his leadership now looks credible.

The North Shropshire by-election is tomorrow. It is neck and neck between Helen Morgan standing for us Lib Dems and Neil Shastri-Hurst for the Conservatives. If the Conservatives lose the seat, then surely Boris Johnson is finished.

During the debate, Layla Moran said that there is new evidence that Omicron affects children more than Delta has done. She asked: “Where is the plan for children?” She also called for more ventilation in public spaces and schools.

Daisy Cooper told MPs that the removal of restrictions on mask wearing in July was more a political move than health management. She said the UK Health Security Agency had warned that “stringent national measures” will need to be imposed by 18 December.

Wera Hobhouse supported mask wearing and warned sceptics of restrictions that our civil liberties do not include the liberty to harm others. She asked what was being done to ensure the housebound received their boosters.

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Ed Davey talks about prospects in North Shropshire

Interviewed by Joanne Gallagher, BBC Radio Shropshire’s political reporter earlier yesterday in Wem at the heart of the North Shropshire constituency, Ed Davey said:

It’s a two horse race. I think everyone knows that now.

It’s really exciting. It’s really close. Too close to call. The Lib Dem campaign has been really positive. Helen Morgan has gone down really well. She is a local candidate and that matters to a lot of people. She is taking up issues that people are really caring about. Ambulances. Access to GPs. I think people are thinking at long last someone is going to listen to them. Someone is going to represent them. They do feel that the Conservatives have taken them for granted for so long.

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North Shropshire: Dogs, knees and a bouncy Davey – video

It’s been a great few weeks in North Shropshire, albeit a bit on the chilly side with some bad storms. Hundreds of supporters have turned out to support Helen Morgan in her campaign to storm a “true blue” bastion. This huge effort has turned the tide and the bookies are giving the Lib Dems better odds than the Tories.

There are just three days campaigning to go, plus polling day. We’ll be publishing the result on LDV just as soon as it is announced in the early hours of Friday morning. And through the day and weekend, we will be publishing commentary on the result.

We are clear favourites with the bookies even though the Tories are trying to fight back with a belated push. If you can get to North Shropshire or pick up the phone, please pitch in to help Helen Morgan win on Thursday. Day-to-day details are on the campaign Facebook page.

Volunteer to take part. Donate to the campaign.

Below, we publish a video highlighting just a selection of the images from the campaign.

Posted in Op-eds and YouTube | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Omicron: Daisy Cooper says emergency plan needed within 72 hours

There is a lot to be learnt about Omicron. We know it is spreading fast. Faster than the dominant variant Delta. We don’t yet know its health impacts, the risks of those with one, two or three doses of vaccine getting Covid-19. We don’t yet know the health impacts of Omicron, the extent it will increase hospitalisation, lead to long term health consequences and deaths.

It is very early days on Omicron. The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine study that triggered today’s media statement by Daisy Cooper has yet to be peer reviewed. But if there is a single lesson from this epidemic, is that earlier planning and earlier action can improve health outcomes and save lives. That is why she is calling for Boris Johnson’s government to set out its emergency plans to Parliament in the next 72 hours.

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Shropshire win in sight – Boris is party gift that keeps on giving

As the media remains saturated with stories of Christmas parties past, one party is unexpectedly struggling in North Shropshire with just seven days to go. That party is the Conservatives who have gone from being strong favourites to neck and neck with the Lib Dem’s Helen Morgan.

There has always been a sense that North Shropshire has been in the peripheral view of the Conservatives. If they thought about the constituency at all, they thought it was a safe out of way place. Rather than choosing a local person for the by-election, they selected a candidate from Birmingham with little knowledge of the constituency. And now Boris Johnson is adding to that error by proving he is the party gift that keeps on giving.

The other political parties have been fading away as hundreds of Lib Dem campaigners pick up their phones or travel to North Shropshire to leaflet and campaign. We are doing great. Helen Morgan is doing great. We are close to clinching this. A win will change the political landscape of Shropshire. A win will tell the world Lib Dems are winning here. A win will set us up for winning everywhere.

Join us for the final seven-day push.

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Low turnout as Tories retain Old Bexley and Sidcup with reduced majority

Conservative Louie French won the suburban London seat yesterday but the vote saw the Tories’ majority of nearly 19,000 slashed to just 4,478. The by-election had been called after the death in October of the well-liked former cabinet minister James Brokenshire. French won 11,189 votes, well head of the Labour challenger Daniel Francis who gained 6,711 votes. The turnout was low at 34 per cent compared to almost 70 per cent in the constituency at the 2019 general election.

Labour increased its share of the vote by over 7 per cent while the Conservatives’ share of the vote fell by more than 13 per cent. Reform UK kept its deposit, while both Lib Dems and the Greens lost theirs.

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North Shropshire’s Helen Morgan talks to LDV about campaign issues

The North Shropshire by-election is two weeks’ today. Yesterday, I spent half-a-hour talking to the Lib Dem candidate for North Shropshire, Helen Morgan. I was impressed by her determination, her grasp of the issues from farming to public transport, and of the biggest issue, health. The first article discussing how the campaign is going was published earlier today.

Helen spoke of the difficulty in getting to see a GP and the queues of ambulances outside the county’s A&E’s. In a very rural part of England, farmers are struggling in the transition from basic farm payments to the new Environmental Land Management System (ELMS). There is space in rural areas for some solar farms and for microgeneration of renewable electricity.

Public transport is a major issue, especially the infrequency of buses. The difficulty in getting housing people can afford is also high on the agenda.

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North Shropshire’s Helen Morgan talks to LDV about the campaign

Yesterday, I spent half-a-hour talking to the Lib Dem candidate for North Shropshire, Helen Morgan.

In this first of two articles, Helen tells us how the campaign is going with just two weeks to go. Sleaze is not a big topic on the doorsteps but trust in politicians is very low. People in Shropshire are fed up with politicians who appear for a photo call during an election but don’t try to solve local problems in between. Helen wants to help restore that trust.

The Conservative vote is very soft. A lot of people are thinking about switching their votes, or maybe even not voting at all, because they are disillusioned with the way they’ve been treated over many decades by their Conservative representatives. A lot of people say that it’s time for a change in North Shropshire.

The canvassing of the postal voters has given really good results:

We can win if we get enough boots on the ground to come and put the leaflets through the door.

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Johnson twitters while migrants drown in the Channel

How did it come this? Tens of migrants drowning in the Channel. There is a sense of inhumanity about current events. A sense of unreality. A sense that the horrors of humanity at its worst is lapping up on the shores of the Channel. Alive. But often dead.

There is a sense of unreality about our government’s response. And that of the French leadership.

This is people’s lives. People escaping the horrors of conflict and political suppression. People who want their children to go to school. People who want to set up thriving businesses. People who want to pay their way.

Instead, some of them drown. Their dreams of a better life destroyed by exploitation of modern day smugglers. Not smuggling contraband but smuggling people. There are many echoes of this from our colonial past but this a current emergency, not something you can look up in the index of a history book.

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Postal votes: Shout out if you are helping in North Shropshire this weekend

There is the clatter of the letter box. Among the bills and magazines is a white envelope that contains the postal voting form. That is happening right now in North Shropshire. Postal votes are critical to us winning this by-election. And we can win this by-election. We have the right candidate. The right team. But in this huge constituency, we need people on the ground and on the phones to persuade people that this does not have to remain a true blue seat.

There is a lot of talk about the Lib Dems having to climb a mountain to win this by-election. A mountain is a challenge but not an impossibility. If we win this by-election, we will change the political dynamics of the Welsh Marches. We are a Tory leaning area with a huge streak of Lib Dem support. Winning here means that we can win so many other wards, councils and constituencies.

We need to tell the world that the Lib Dems are back.

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Hell has no fury like an editor scorned

Paul Dacre, a doyen of the right and former long term editor of the Daily Mail, is raging. In a letter published in The Times this morning, he tells the world that he wants to set the record straight following “increasingly hysterical speculation from the left-wing media” on whether he would be applying again to be chair of Ofcom. He tells us he will not be submitting a new application while lambasting civil servants for working from home and “exercising on their Peloton bikes and polishing their political correctness”.

This episode arises from an attempt by Boris Johnson to stich up the Ofcom appointment. When the original selection panel did not appoint Dacre, Boris Johnson called for the selection panel and criteria to be changed, echoes of how he later tried to change the rules over the suspension of Owen Paterson. This debacle has only pumped more oxygen on the flames of sleaze that are engulfing Boris Johnson’s government.

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Fourteen candidates to stand in North Shropshire

Some people believe that 13 is an unlucky number. Let’s hope that is the case for the thirteen candidates standing against Helen Morgan in the North Shropshire by-election on 16 December.

The four main contenders are the Lib Dems, Conservatives, Labour and the Green Party. They are joined by a candidate based in Monaco, UKIP, Rejoin EU, Reclaim Party, Heritage Party, Freedom Alliance, Reform UK, an independent and of course the Monster Raving Loony Party. Just five of the candidates live in the constituency: Lib Dems, Labour, Green Party, UKIP and Reform UK. The Conservative candidate lives sixty miles away in Birmingham.

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Brexit preparations hindered a government unprepared for pandemic

A report from the National Audit Office published this morning reveals Brexit preparations hindered the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic how badly prepared the government was a major health emergency. :

This pandemic has exposed a vulnerability to whole-system emergencies – that is, emergencies that are so broad that they engage the entire system. Although the government had plans for an influenza pandemic, it did not have detailed plans for many non-health consequences and some health consequences of a pandemic like COVID-19. There were lessons from previous simulation exercises that were not fully implemented and would have helped prepare for a pandemic like COVID-19. There was limited oversight and assurance of plans in place, and many pre-pandemic plans were not adequate. In addition, there is variation in capacity, capability and maturity of risk management across government departments.

Ed Davey call on Boris Johnson to apologise: “That failure has cost many lives and contributed to an economic collapse the scale of which we are yet to understand. Most hurt of all will be a generation of school children left behind by the Conservatives.”

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One month to go in North Shropshire campaign – we need your help

Just four weeks today, voters will go to the polls across North Shropshire. More than 83,000 voters will have the chance to cast their vote. We can win that vote. Even the bookies think so – odds on Helen Morgan winning have shortened this week with William Hill now offering 2:1.

The previous incumbent, Owen Paterson, held a majority of 22,949. Despite that, the Tories are not invincible in North Shropshire. They have presided over the decline of local NHS services. Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust was rated as inadequate for the third time today. There are long waits for ambulances and long waits to be transferred into A&E. The reform of Shropshire’s health provision, known as Future Fit, has stalled after years of dithering. Farmers and small businesses are angry at the bureaucracy they must negotiate to export to the EU. People are concerned about climate change and the slow progress locally and nationally on tackling it. Underfunded schools. The lack of rural transport. Low wages. The state of the rural economy.

We have everything to win in North Shropshire. We have a great candidate in Helen Morgan and a great team backing her. We need as many feet on the ground, as many people stuffing envelopes and as many people on the phones as we can get. If you can’t do any of those, please donate. Campaigning details for Saturday are below.

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Helen Morgan says the Lib Dems are on the up in North Shropshire

Yesterday, the Lib Dems announced that Helen Morgan has been selected as our candidate for North Shropshire. This morning BBC Radio Shropshire broadcast an interview recorded with her in Wem yesterday.

Helen told Joanne Gallagher, the station’s political reporter, that the Lib Dems have already knocked around 1,000 doors. Problems with the NHS in Shropshire, where there are difficulties in getting GP appointments and people are sometimes waiting for several hours for an ambulance, are top of Helen’s agenda. The bad deal we got out of Brexit and the bureaucracy created are significant issues for farmers and small businesses. A referendum on rejoining the EU is not on the horizon. The trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand are adding to the pressures for farmers who will be undercut by meat and dairy produced to lower standards. The current political maelstrom about MP’s standards doesn’t feature strongly, despite the by-election being called after Owen Paterson resigned after being accused of lobbying for food companies who paid him £100,000 a year.

Can we win? Helen is clear we can: “The Lib Dems are on the up in North Shropshire.”

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COP26 didn’t save the world but it helps

Glasgow was not a disaster after all. Neither was it a ringing success. Hopes had been building that the Conference of Parties would have reached an agreement that would get us near to capping global warming at 1.5°C. That target has been missed. The promises needed will be delivered in Egypt next year at COP27 at the earliest, if at all. But the ambition to limit the temperature rise 1.5°C is still alive and that is an achievement.

There have been strides forward and the next COP has been brought forward to next year not the usual five year interval.

We need to act quickly.  Climate change is happening not just in developing countries, but here in Europe and in North America.

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North Shropshire campaign ramps up this weekend

The campaign to take the North Shropshire seat from the Conservatives got off to a flying start last weekend, including a visit from Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey. The North Shropshire team supported by campaigners across the country have been leafleting and talking to voters since last Saturday.

The betting odds on the Lib Dem candidates winning this seat have been slashed from 10:1 to 4:1. That’s good when we are trying to overturn a majority of nearly 23,000. I am not suggesting you gamble but if you can get to North Shropshire, please to so and help win the seat whatever the bookies’ odds. There are also other ways you can help if you can’t get there.

Ed Davey and Daisy Cooper are campaigning in Wem on Friday afternoon. Saturday lunch, Tim Farron and Sarah Green will officially launch the campaign just outside Wem at 1pm. Campaigners will also be out in Oswestry, Market Drayton and Whittington over the next few days.

Posted in Campaign Corner and Op-eds | Tagged and | 28 Comments

Is Greta right? Has COP26 failed?

It has been a week of announcements. A week of ambitions. And a week of ambiguities. And according to activist Greta Thunberg, COP26 is nothing other than “blah, blah, blah” and has failed. Is that really the case?

It’s rather imperialistic to argue that the countries that are trying to build their per capita wealth and standards of living should now pay for the sins of the most developed countries. The developed countries are responsible for most of the increases in atmospheric carbon. They are richer and have the ability to pay.

But the reliance of countries like India and China on coal for electricity and the lack of commitment from Russia risks swamping small countries. Quite literally.

There have been achievements on forest clearance, on a mixed bag of net zero targets and on financing. But even if countries keep to their pledges, it still doesn’t stack up to keeping global warming to 1.5°C.

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Time to launch attack on Blue Fields of Shropshire

The BBC and the Telegraph have been today reporting an idea that the opposition political parties could stand aside in the forthcoming North Shropshire by-election in favour of an anti-corruption candidate. It’s the Martin Bell strategy resurrected.

It is easy to see why this idea is attractive. Bell, the “Man in the White Suit”, won the Tatton seat as an anti-corruption independent candidate, with more than 60% of the vote. At the previous election, Neil Hamilton of cash for questions fame, had secured 55% of the vote. It was a dramatic and highly publicised drubbing by Bell. It was a stand against sleaze even if it did not stop sleaze.

Was that a one off? Or a strategy we can repeat in North Shropshire?

I don’t think it could possibly work in North Shropshire. And if we don’t field a Lib Dem candidate, we will undermine the growing strength of Lib Dem activists across Shropshire where we have 14 unitary councillors and are aiming for many more.

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Johnson sucked into a black hole after Paterson resigns

You can’t lose more credibility than this. Boris Johnson, distracted no doubt by glad handing world leaders at COP26 and his slap up dining with Telegraph grandees at the Garrick, arrived back at No 10 to find that he was swirling towards the black hole of political failure. His attempt to protect North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson from allegations of lobbying on behalf of his food industry paymasters failed. Big time.

Jacob Rees Mogg yesterday cancelled the review of loyal Tory MPs had voted for just hours before. Paterson, back on the hook and facing suspension, resigned.

Dominic Cummings once described Boris Johnson as “a shopping trolley smashing from one side of the aisle to the other”. It is a cruel irony that Owen Paterson was shopping in a supermarket when he learnt that the wheels had come off his political career.

Boris Johnson, who had hoped that COP26 would be his finest hour, has perhaps made the biggest mistake of his political career and even his fellow Tories are raging.

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Commons loses moral compass with Paterson decision

Today MPs today set a new low standard for democracy in the UK. Conservative MPs voted to maintain an image of sleaze against promoting an image of integrity. Instead of suspending Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire, they suspended Commons Committee on Standards instead. The Conservatives in the House of Commons have lost their moral compass.

Boris Johnson, boosted by his role as host of COP26, is currently a superhero in Invincible mode. Believing that nothing can harm him, he ordered “his MPs” to vote to protect his ally, Owen Paterson, against allegations of lobbying for companies for which he is a well paid consultant. They didn’t all obey.

Despite a handful of Johnson’s troops rebelling, the authority and integrity of the House of Commons took a nose dive today. Most Conservative MPs voted for their own interests and pockets after Boris Johnson decided that protecting Paterson was more important than protecting the integrity of the Commons.

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