First candidate in North Shropshire by-election confirmed as ex-council leader's daughter

The daughter of a former Shropshire Council leader who switched from the Conservatives to Reform UK will stand for the parliamentary seat vacated by Owen Paterson.

A by-election will take place after Owen Paterson resigned as the MP for North Shropshire
A by-election will take place after Owen Paterson resigned as the MP for North Shropshire

Kirsty Walmsley, herself a Shropshire former councillor and the daughter of ex-leader Keith Barrow, is challenging to become the next North Shropshire MP.

She said she would not have challenged Mr Paterson, who she described as a "man of integrity". The former Conservative cabinet minister resigned as an MP on Thursday after losing the backing of the Government over his potential suspension for breaking paid lobbying rules.

The affair has led to widespread accusations of sleaze towards the Government, with critics of Boris Johnson including former prime minister Sir John Major who described the administration as "shameful".

On Saturday Mrs Walmsley confirmed she would be standing for the former Brexit Party in the upcoming by-election.

The 39-year-old, who grew up in Trefonen near Oswestry and now lives in Wem, comes from a family with a history of participation in local politics.

Her mother Joyce remains a Conservative councillor on Shropshire Council, her grandmother Doris Barrow was mayor of Oswestry, her brother a councillor and father Keith leader of the council from 2009 until 2015.

In 2003 Mrs Walmsley became one of youngest county councillors in the country, representing the Conservatives like her parents.

However now she is standing for Reform UK, having originally got involved with what was the Brexit Party.

"It's not that my ideals have changes, but the ideals of the Conservative Party have," she said.

"I never set out to become involved in politics. I stood for the council because, working in the family business in Oswestry in 2003, people would talk to me about the problems in the area and I wanted to get involved to make a difference. It is the same now.

"I would never had stood against Owen Paterson. He is a man of integrity who had worked hard for North Shropshire."

Kirsty Walmsley, when she was still Kirsty Barrow and one of the youngest councillors in the country

Mrs Walmsley said she was passionate about both local and national issues.

"I do feel that democracy is broken in the UK," she said.

"I am still not sure that we have a proper Brexit."

The mother-of-two said that there were a number of local issues she wanted to address and would be bringing out a detailed statement in the near future.

"Health services are obviously a major issues. The loss of the maternity unit in Oswestry was dreadful for the community. I went there with my children and the difference it made to me was huge."

The date of the by-election has not yet been confirmed, but is expected to take place in mid-December after Mr Paterson's resignation was officially confirmed on Friday.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both confirmed they will be standing candidates in the poll, dashing the hopes of those who had hoped opposition parties would unite around an 'anti-sleaze' candidate.

The seat is an ultra-safe Conservative constituency where Mr Paterson won 63 per cent of the vote in 2019, beating Labour by nearly 23,000 votes.

The Lib Dems were out campaigning across the constituency on Saturday. The party came third in 2019 with 10 per cent of the vote - half of Labour's 22 per cent - but along with the Greens saw their results improve at the Shropshire Council election this year.

Mr Paterson, who represented the area for 24 years, was found to have breached Commons rules by lobbying officials and ministers for two companies paying him more than £100,000 a year.

The 65-year-old continues to deny the allegations but stood down when the Government' U-turned on attempts to overhaul the disciplinary process and save him from the 30-day suspension recommended by the Commons Standards Committee.

He has also stood down from constituency work and pledged to spend more time with his family and on suicide prevention following the death of his wife Rose last year.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News