North Shropshire by-election: Tories select Birmingham barrister as candidate
The Conservatives have chosen their candidate to defend the North Shropshire seat in next month's high-profile by-election.
Birmingham-based barrister Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst was said to be "the comfortable winner" as members of the North Shropshire Conservative Association picked their choice from a three-person shortlist.
The group met on Saturday morning, with Dr Shastri-Hurst taking more than 50 per cent of the vote in the first round – cementing his place as the candidate.
He will now be faced with the task of retaining the North Shropshire seat, which has been vacated by long-time MP Owen Paterson, following a lobbying scandal.
The by-election has been thrust into the national spotlight following the furore generated by the government's abandoned attempt to force a review of Mr Paterson's case – and to create an entirely new disciplinary process for MPs.
Dr Shastri-Hurst would appear to be the favourite in the December 16 by-election with Mr Paterson having secured a 23,000 majority at the last General Election, while the seat has been Conservative for more than 100 years.
The new candidate has a strong record of public service being a former British Army Medical Officer and honorary NHS consultant.
It is understood that he has links to Shropshire having trained at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, as well as being based at Tern Hill Barracks for a time during his army career.
In a statement following his selection Dr Shastri-Hurst, 38, said he was intent on showing the people of North Shropshire that he is "the best candidate to represent them".
He said: “I am thrilled to be selected as the Conservative candidate for North Shropshire.
“I know that there is hard work to be done, but I cannot wait to get out campaigning to get my message out to everyone living and working in the towns and communities across the constituency.
“Alongside a commitment to public service, I have integrity, loyalty and respect for others which I will demonstrate to communities throughout North Shropshire during the campaign.
“And helping North Shropshire to bounce back and thrive after this terrible pandemic will be at the heart of my campaign.
“The Government has shown it is committed to levelling up across the country and I want to make sure North Shropshire communities are at the centre of the post-pandemic recovery.
“During the next few weeks, I will show people I am the best candidate to represent them and help improve lives for everybody here."
Dr Shastri-Hurst was said to have put forward a "hugely persuasive" performance in the selection meeting, with a source saying: "He is obviously highly intelligent and I think he will go a long way in the party.
"He has a very impressive military, legal and medical background and was the stand-out choice in a strong field of candidates.
"He spoke really well and I think he will be great for the people of North Shropshire. Now we will now focus on getting out and campaigning to get him elected."
Dr Shastri-Hurst's own website details a number of his achievements, and outlines his commitment to the Conservative Party.
It tells how he has "run General Election campaigns", "supported Andy Street, the West Midlands Mayor, in his election and re-election bids", and "been recognised as one of the Conservative Party’s 'Top Volunteers'".
The website also lists how he has "raised tens of thousands of pounds for the Conservative Party", and "has put on dinners for senior figures, including the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, shortly after her taking office".
It is understood that the three-person shortlist presented to members of the North Shropshire Conservatives had been selected by the party nationally, and included local Shropshire Councillor for Worfield, Richard Marshall, and Birmingham City Councillor Charlotte Hodivala.
The Labour Party is expected to select its candidate at a meeting tomorrow.