Labour to stand in Shropshire byelection sparked by Owen Paterson resignation
Labour to stand in Shropshir...
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Labour to stand in Shropshire byelection sparked by Owen Paterson resignation

7 November 2021
2719
2 min.
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Labour to stand in Shropshire byelection sparked by Owen Paterson resignation

Labour has confirmed it will put up a candidate in the North Shropshire byelection – the seat about to be vacated by the disgraced former Conservative cabinet minister Owen Paterson.

There had been suggestions that opposition parties could band together to support an “anti-sleaze” candidate, after Paterson stepped aside following a botched attempt by Boris Johnson to protect him from punishment for paid lobbying.

A Labour spokesperson said a candidate from the party would definitely stand. “We’re not in the business of alliances: we’re in the business of putting forward a Labour candidate, with Labour values,” they said.

It is understood no formal talks with other opposition parties had taken place about the idea of uniting behind an independent anti-corruption candidate.

In the 1997 general election, the former journalist Martin Bell stood as an independent candidate against the Tory MP Neil Hamilton, who had been accused of taking cash to ask parliamentary questions. He overturned Hamilton’s 22,000 majority to win the seat of Tatton.

Opposition sources said electoral legislation passed since 1997 made it impossible to share data and resources between separate parties in a way they were able to in Tatton.

Labour came second in the seat in 2019, but the Liberal Democrats have made advances in recent local elections and believe they are more likely to attract Tory switchers than Labour. “We’re in quite a strong position,” said a Lib Dem source.

Paterson was found by the independent parliamentary standards commissioner, Kathryn Stone, to have lobbied ministers and officials repeatedly on behalf of two firms that were paying him more than £100,000 a year.

Johnson whipped Conservative MPs on Wednesday to support an extraordinary attempt to revisit Paterson’s case and overhaul the entire parliamentary standards regime.

The parliamentary motion passed, in effect lifting the 30-day suspension Paterson had expected to face – but the prime minister then withdrew the government’s support less than 24 hours later after the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, accused him of “corruption”.

Paterson won his North Shropshire seat by a majority of almost 23,000 at the last general election in 2019.

Starmer, who has been in self-isolation after testing positive for Covid, has taken a noticeably more punchy tone against Johnson in recent days, accusing him of “leading his troops through the sewer” after the attempt to protect Paterson.

Conservative MPs erupted in fury after Johnson’s U-turn on Thursday, accusing him – and the Tory chief whip, Mark Spencer – of making a catastrophic misjudgment by setting out to protect an individual.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/nov/05/labour-to-stand-in-shropshire-byelection-sparked-by-owen-paterson-resignation

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