How angry Tories reacted to the shock by-election defeat in North Shropshire

 How angry Tories reacted to the shock by-election defeat in North Shropshire

Conservatives woke on Friday morning to a political earthquake following the shock defeat of their candidate in the former safe seat of North Shropshire.

The constituency of the former cabinet minister Owen Paterson, who resigned in a lobbying row, saw a 34 per cent swing to the Liberal Democrats – the largest the party has secured since 1993. 

The Tories previously held the seat with a majority of more than 23,000, but the Lib Dem candidate Helen Morgan won it by 5,925 votes, sending shockwaves through the Conservative Party.

In the wake of the result, Tory MPs have expressed their anger and disappointment. Here are the remarks of some of the MPs who have spoken out:

Sir Roger Gale

Veteran Conservative MP for North Thanet since 1983

Sir Roger Gale said the by-election defeat should be seen as a “referendum” on Boris Johnson’s premiership.

Asked why the Tories lost, he told the Today programme: “Because the electorate wanted to send a very clear message to Downing Street that they were dissatisfied with the management of this Government.

“I think this has to be seen as a referendum on the Prime Minister’s performance and I think that the Prime Minister is now in ‘last orders’ time.

“Two strikes already, one earlier this week in the vote in the Commons and now this. One more strike and he’s out.




Neil Shastri-Hurst, the Tory candidate, said he was disappointed at the result but ‘proud’ of the campaign he had run


Credit: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

“The Conservative Party has a reputation for not taking prisoners. If the Prime Minister fails, the Prime Minister goes. We got rid of a good Prime Minister to install Mr Johnson and Mr Johnson has to prove that he’s a good Prime Minister, at the moment it’s quite clear that the public don’t think that that is the case.

“This is nothing to do with Brexit at all, this goes back to Barnard Castle in my case. I was dissatisfied then because it was not firm government. A lot of what has happened since then I think has made it clear that the Prime Minister and the people surrounding the Prime Minister are not the right people.”

Sir Charles Walker

Veteran Conservative MP for Broxbourne since 2005

“People are tired, angry, exhausted [after] 20 months of a pandemic. It’s put Government under the microscope, mistakes have been made and the Prime Minister would be the first to admit mistakes have been made,” he said. 

“It’s a very difficult time for the country, for Government and I would be surprised if we didn’t lose it. Of course I’m sad we lost it but we sort of have defied political gravity for 11 years and we’re now returning to business as usual I’m afraid.




Lib Dem candidate Helen Morgan delivering her victory speech


Credit: Jacob King/PA Wire

“By-elections throw up these results and every time there’s a result like this people say it’s seismic, people say it’s a shockwave, it’s a tsunami of change – sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.

“I don’t think we can read too much into this, of course it’s disappointing for the Conservative Party, of course it’s a really bad morning and we would have liked to have won. But it doesn’t mean the end, it certainly doesn’t mean leadership challenges.”

John Redwood

Conservative MP for Wokingham since 1987

“Will the Chancellor now admit his high tax economic slowdown is wrong?” he tweeted. “Will the Environment Secretary back British farming instead of trying to stop us growing our own food? Time to listen to Conservatives.”

Will the Chancellor now admit his high tax economic slowdown is wrong? Will the Environment Secretary back British farming instead of trying to stop us growing our own food? Time to listen to Conservatives.

— John Redwood (@johnredwood) December 17, 2021

Oliver Dowden

Conservative Party chairman

“Voters in North Shropshire were fed up and they gave us a kicking,” he told Sky News. “I think they wanted to send us a message and I want to say as chairman of the Conservative Party we’ve heard that loud and clear.”

“We need to get on with delivering the job and that’s precisely what we’re doing.”

David Gauke

Tory MP from 2005 until 2019 and a former Cabinet minister

“The North Shropshire defeat further weakens the Prime Minister and leaves him more vulnerable. But omicron means that an attempt to remove him in January is unlikely – and may even strengthen his position against his Covid rebels,” he said. 

Neil Shastri-Hurst

Defeated Tory parliamentary candidate in North Shropshire

Neil Shastri-Hurst spoke of his “disappointment” after his defeat to the Lib Dems.

“Clearly it was a disappointing result,” he said, but added that the Tories ran “a positive campaign” which he was “proud” of. He said the party would now “sit back and take stock”.

Pushed on whether he might have won the election if Mr Johnson had not been Prime Minister, he wouldn’t say, only reiterating that he was “proud” of the campaign.

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