Labour members have selected Ben Wood as their parliamentary candidate for the North Shropshire by-election, taking place on December 16th after Owen Paterson resigned amid the MP paid lobbying scandal.
Wood said: “Absolutely over the moon to have been selected as Labour’s candidate for the North Shropshire by-election. Being Oswestry born-and-bred, I’ve had enough of people taking North Shropshire for granted.
“The closure of local ambulance stations in Market Drayton and Oswestry is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll be putting forward a new plan with fresh ideas to give our area a brighter future, but I also want to bring a sense of decency back to our politics.
“North Shropshire needs a voice at Westminster that will always work for them. This is a two-horse [race] between Labour and the Tories – and I’m the only candidate who will stand up for our towns and villages at every opportunity.”
From Oswestry in Shropshire, Wood said he attended Woodside Primary School and the Marches Secondary School, and “started working life in a local hardware shop”. He said the by-election was a chance to rid the seat of “Tory sleaze”.
In 2015, 2017 and 2019, Graeme Currie was Labour’s candidate in North Shropshire. But he tweeted today that he had been excluded from the shortlist by the national executive committee (NEC) due to social media posts.
“I feel betrayed and abused by the NEC who have rejected me on spurious and unfair grounds and have prevented local members from a considering my suitability,” Currie said. He now describes himself as a former Labour member.
There were talks between opposition parties about the possibility of standing aside in favour of a cross-party independent candidate who would pitch themselves as ‘anti-sleaze’, but the idea was ultimately rejected.
Paterson had been the Conservative MP for North Shropshire since 1997. He quit earlier this month after a chaotic 24 hours in which the government first defended him before performing a sudden U-turn.
The then-MP was found guilty of an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules. He was being paid over £110,000 a year – on top of his MP’s salary – to act as a consultant for the two companies that he was found to have wrongly promoted.
The parliamentary standards committee recommended a 30-day suspension, and – rather than nod this through as usual – Tory MPs were whipped to vote for an amendment that rejected the recommendation.
It was then announced that any new system would not apply to Paterson, but instead only to “future cases”. Paterson swiftly quit, claiming innocence and saying he would stay “outside the cruel world of politics”.
Paterson had a majority of 22,949. The constituency has been held by the Tories since 1935, though Paterson only had a narrow majority of 2,195 in 1997, with Labour’s Ian Lucas – later MP for Wrexham – placing second.
The Conservatives have selected Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst as their candidate, a Birmingham-based barrister and former British Army medical officer with a medical background.