Boris on knife-edge in North Shropshire as MP warns the Tories are going to lose
Boris Johnson faces revolt by North Shropshire voters
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Boris Johnson, 57, is hoping to cling onto the Brexit-backing seat of North Shropshire after the ex-MP Owen Paterson, 65, resigned from the Commons for breaking parliamentary rules on paid lobbying. The Prime Minister also faces pressure after it was reported workers at Downing Street held festive parties last Christmas.
Mr Paterson retained the seat, which has voted Conservative in every electoral contest since 1906, with a 22,949-vote majority in 2019.
The Labour Party, which is not considered to be the Tories main threat in today’s by-election, lagged behind in second place on just 12,495-votes.
Despite ending up in a distant third, the Liberal Democrats, led by 55-year-old Sir Ed Davey, are determined to take yet another major scalp after they knocked their first brick out of the ‘Blue Wall’ in Chesham & Amersham back in June.
The Kingston & Surbiton MP claimed the race between the Liberal Democrats and the Tory Party is “neck and neck”.
“The momentum is now with the Liberal Democrats,” Davey added.
But England’s third-largest party also warned that Labour and Green Party voters must lend Sir Ed Davey’s candidate their support if they want to land Mr Johnson with yet another electoral blow.
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However, and following reports Southside held back from going full throttle in North Shropshire, Labour claim they are continuing to take the fight to the Tories on the campaign trail.
A Labour spokesperson said: “You had Angela Rayner there yesterday, you’ve got two members of the shadow cabinet there, at least, today that I’ve already seen on social media are there, they’re campaigning.
“We’ve got a brilliant local candidate in Ben Wood and we’ve run a focused campaign there, and I think what’s clear is that Boris Johnson’s incompetence and broken promises is what’s coming up repeatedly on the doorstep.”
Other Liberal Democrat sources also point out much will defend on wavering Tory voters.
“A lot rests on the soft Tories who have gone off their party and Boris Johnson,” one said.
Tory MPs appear mixed as to whether Mr Johnson will be able to retain the seat.
One told the Financial Times: “It’s going to be tight but I think we’ll just take it. And if we do hold it, Boris can breathe a little easier.”
However, another said: “We are going to lose.”
Even Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, 54, cautioned the Conservatives could be hit by a wave of protest votes in the once safe seat.
Speaking to Times Radio, the Euroscpetic MP for Stratford-upon-Avon said: “By-elections have historically been used as a protest vote because people know it’s not going to change the outcome of which party governs the country but actually they want to send a message for whatever reason.”
Mr Zahawi added: “I think the people of North Shropshire would be really well-served by Neil Shastri-Hurst – I’m certainly backing him and I hope he wins on Thursday night.”
Defeat in North Shropshire could also put pressure on the Prime Minister from inside Parliament.
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Letters of no confidence against Mr Johnson have reportedly already been submitted to chair of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady, 54.
However, even more could be handed in if the Tories are defeated in North Shropshire.
One Conservative MP said: “Some letters have gone in already and I’m sure more will go in if we don’t win the by-election.
“But it’s not too late for him to turn things around.”
A total of 54 letters would need to be submitted to trigger a vote on Mr Johnson’s position as Tory Party leader.
With the Commons in Brexit-induced chaos, Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, 65, saw off the Conservative Party’s last no confidence contest by 200 votes to just 117.
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