13 January 2022
Letter to the Editors
from Richard Pooley
J.R.Thomas does not usually get his facts wrong nor have I noticed him changing his opinion about someone in the space of a fortnight. However, his otherwise excellent article in your 22 December issue – A Brick Out of the Blue Wall – did exhibit both of these retreats from perfection.
The Tory candidate in the North Shropshire by-election, Neil Shastri-Hurst is not “a medic from Birmingham” but is, as Mr Thomas correctly labelled him on 9 December, “a barrister from Birmingham”. Perhaps Mr Thomas was bamboozled by Shastri-Hurst’s election literature which made much of the fact that he once was a medical officer in the British army and learned to love North Shropshire when doing some medical training at a hospital in Oswestry. He’s also an honorary NHS consultant…whatever that means.
Mr Thomas also claimed that “Sir Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, did not turn up at all [during the election campaign], being laid low with Covid.” Not true. Davey turned up five times and only missed the last bit of the campaign because of Covid.
Helen Morgan, the Lib Dem’s victorious candidate, was described by Mr Thomas in his article of 9 December as “an impressive local Lib Dem” but by 22 December had become “an energetic if not terribly impressive candidate.”
Leaving these unfortunate slips aside, Mr Thomas is right in his belief that it is “unlikely that Mrs Morgan will be the constituency representative for too long.” However he may be over-optimistic in his apparent assessment that all the Tories need to do to win back their traditional support in areas such as North Shropshire is for Johnson to change the habits of a lifetime or to be got rid of. Indeed, it may be that lack of resources – money and manpower – will be a help not a hindrance to the opposition parties at the next election. Both Labour and the Lib Dems are going to have to limit their scarce resources to those seats they think they can win. There will be no need for a deal between the two parties because there is almost no overlap; the winnable seats for Labour are not ones the Lib Dems will target. The Tories may still end up with the largest number of seats but without a majority. There is no way that the Lib Dems would contemplate another coalition with the Conservatives but one with a Starmer-led Labour Party would certainly be possible.