North Shropshire by-election: Liberal Democrats now favorites but Labor “still fighting”
All major bookmakers now have Lib Dem candidate Helen Morgan installed as the favorite for Thursday’s poll after the Tories faced a public backlash against the Christmas parties staged during the lockdown last year.
She has odds of winning at 1/2, with the Tories second in pricing at 6/4 and Labor third at 40/1 upwards.
The campaign is now peaking with North Shropshire market towns inundated with activists, MPs and party heavyweights who have been sent to rally votes for their respective parties.
Despite the apparent wave of Lib Dem, Labor candidate Mr Wood – who was joined in Oswestry by shadow Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Daniel Zeichner over the weekend – insists that the election is a two-horse race between him and Conservative candidate Neil Shastri-Hurst.
Labor fell far behind in the last election in North Shropshire, winning 22% of the vote against 63% for the Tories. The Lib Dems were third with 10 percent.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who until last week voted Conservative, until they heard about the Christmas holidays,” said Mr Wood, who was also door-to-door. Door to Prees and Whitchurch on Saturday.
âIt hasn’t been a good week for the Conservatives.
âIn Whitchurch today, people told me they thought it was a rule for the government, and another rule for the rest of us. Next week we will have the chance to send a message
“We’re more confident than we’ve ever been in the past few weeks. We’re fighting to win this one.”
The Christmas party controversy sparked fury this week when a video was released appearing to show Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton answering questions during a mock press conference on a Downing Street party on December 18. The country was under strict rules, with London at Level 3, which prohibited people from mingling indoors with anyone outside of their support bubble.
Allegations of other parties that could have been held by the Tories, in violation of the coronavirus restrictions, have since been made.
Before the video leaked, Mr Shastri-Hurst was pressed to keep North Shropshire for the Tories, usually a super-safe seat for the party.
In the 2019 election, Owen Paterson retained the Tory seat with a majority of 23,000, but the backbench MP resigned after breaking the rules of paid lobbying while earning more than Â£ 100,000 a year for consultant jobs.
The Tory candidate to replace him, Dr Shastri-Hurst, is the only candidate from the main parties in the running who is not from North Shropshire. The fact that he is from Birmingham led a Tory adviser to defect to Reform UK and local Tory party sources told the Shropshire Star they now believe the by-election could be decided by a few hundred votes .
Rejoin EU party candidate and Boris Johnson impersonator Drew Galdron aka Boris Been Bunged was also in the county pleading for the North Shropshire seat.
Mr. Galdron has made street presentations at Buttercross in Market Drayton and Festival Square in Oswestry.
Labor candidate Mr Wood and Mr Zeichner visited Oswestry market and other businesses. Mr Wood said: “He was really thrilled to see the city and that people were really proud to live here and to start businesses there.”