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.

Source: smarkets.com

Writing from the south of Shropshire, I know that this by-election is not just about the North Shropshire seat. If we win North Shropshire, we will send a shock wave through the complacent Conservative politicians that have dominated this county for too long. They rule Shropshire Council, including controlling the two planning committees and all four “independent” scrutiny committees. Voters are fed up with this hegemony and the Conservatives were weakened in the unitary elections last May. They had deselected long standing councillors, leading to an astonishing blue on blue attack and the defeat of the council leader by Lib Dem Rob Wilson. Another deselected councillor in Market Drayton stood as an independent and was duly re-elected. The council leader breached the council’s constitution by sacking the vice-chair of a planning committee over a dispute over the local plan, only to be thwarted when he became an independent and continued in post. The arrogance of the local Conservatives is only exceeded by their mismanagement of the county.

The Lib Dems have 14 councillors on Shropshire Council. In North Shropshire, we had near misses in May in the Ellesmere area (23 vote gap), Whittington (34 votes), Wem (39 votes) and Baschurch (100 votes). Winning the North Shropshire by-election will put us on a clear path to winning these seats and others around the county. It will put us on a path to controlling Shropshire Council in 2025.

In North Shropshire, Conservative support is already weak with some traditionally blue voters lending their votes to us. There are probably even more not planning to turn out next Thursday.

The right leaning media has turned against Boris Johnson. The Times editorial today says that Johnson “failed to apply common sense. To both deny there was a party and say that any party did not breach the rules failed logic and propriety.” The FT leader says “Partygate strains trust in Johnson’s government”. Conservative Home claims: “A vote of no confidence in Johnson has suddenly become more likely than not.”

Although this by-election started with sleaze, it has not been a big issue on the doorsteps. Until now.

Johnson’s misadventures trying to explain away partying at Downing Street are overshadowing the limited support senior Conservatives have mustered for Neil Shastri-Hurst, their candidate in North Shropshire. Michael Gove was rolled out last weekend. Johnson himself made a visit on Friday, though he did not know the name of the candidate he was supporting, referring to him as Neil Shastri-Hughes not Neil Shastri-Hurst.

There is everything to win here. This is not just a by-election. A second spectacular win after Chesham and Amersham will show that we can turn winning here into winning everywhere.

Details of how you can help are here. You can donate to the campaign here.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Friday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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