Meet the North Shropshire by-election candidates hoping to beat the odds

A former teacher who rode a camel across the Gobi desert, a Boris Johnson impersonator, a yacht salesman from Monaco, and a self-styled 'loony' who runs a pub in Hampshire.

Alan 'Howling Laud' Hope
Alan 'Howling Laud' Hope

A disparate group of people. But one thing they have in common is that they are all standing in the North Shropshire by-election – and they are unlikely to become your next MP.

A total of 14 candidates are in the running to succeed Owen Paterson in the poll on December 16, in what will prove to be a crucial mid-term test of public confidence in the Government.

It would be something of an upset if the Conservatives did not hold onto the seat, which Mr Paterson held with a majority of 22,000 just two years ago. But there are upsets and upsets.

And there are a number of candidates who will fight the seat knowing that they have next to no chance of winning it.

Yet upsets do happen, as one of the candidates, Alan "Howling Laud" Hope will testify.

The 79-year-old former singer has led the Official Monster Raving Loony Party since the death of its founder Screaming Lord Sutch in 1999.

In 1987 he was elected unopposed to Ashburton Town Council in Devon, creating something of a constitutional crisis for the Loonies as party rules required the expulsion of anybody who actually won an election.

The rules were swiftly changed, meaning that if Laud Hope does overcome the 999-1 odds against him, he will be allowed to take the party whip in the House of Commons.

He served as mayor of Ashburton in 1997, and has been a member of Fleet Town Council since 2010 – making him one of the more experienced candidates in this by-election.

If the bookies' odds are to be believed, the two independent candidates standing are the most likely of the outsiders to cause a dent in the big parties' chances. Yolande Kenward and Suzie Akers-Smith are both 99-1 with the bookies.

Andrea Allen standing for Ukip

A former Conservative, 55-year-old Mrs Akers-Smith is now an independent councillor in East Cheshire, forming part of a power-sharing arrangement with Labour, and became Mayor of Congleton in 2018. She says one of her prime motives for standing is to give a greater voice for shire counties, saying they are often overlooked compared to the major cities.

Councillor Akers-Smith, who is East Cheshire's cycling and walking champion, says: "One of my main issues is how central government funds shire counties. We’re sort of second class citizens when it comes to central government funding.

"For example when it comes to the active travel measures, Manchester got 20 million quid, while Cheshire got half a million quid."

Miss Kenward, who has previously stood in Maidstone and The Weald at the 2017 and 2019 general elections, says she is standing on an anti-corruption ticket this time around. She has accused the Office of the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner of bias in its handling of the allegations against Mr Paterson, and believes the former MP did not get a fair hearing.

Before the 2016 EU referendum, Ukip's Andrea Allen might have expected to be in with a chance in this particularly eurosceptic seat which voted 60-40 to leave the EU. Indeed, at the 2015 General Election, the former teacher from Whitchurch received more than 9,000 votes, putting her within a whisker of second-placed Labour candidate, Graeme Currie.

But the party has struggled to find an identity since Nigel Farage left, and has been eclipsed in recent years by the Brexit Party, recently re-branded as Reform UK. The bookmakers now have the keen horsewoman – who once rode a camel across the Gobi desert in aid of a horse charity at 299-1 – which some might find worth a punt.

If having an easy-to-remember name is important to a party's political success, Party Party might like to think it is in with a shout.

Monaco-based yacht salesman Russell Dean says he registered the name in 2013, believing it might help attract younger people to take an interest in politics.

Russell Dean

The 55-year-old, originally from Chester, says he is familiar with the county from his time as a pupil at Wrekin College in Wellington, and would regularly travel through the area.

He is another candidate standing on an anti-corruption ticket, and says he will return to the UK if elected.

"I have long held the belief that politics needs to be cleaned up and recent developments have shown this," he says.

"I know the area and this seems a great opportunity to present a slightly different perspective to the electorate."

Mr Dean, who worked as a chartered surveyor before moving to Monaco 15 years ago, says there is 'too much nastiness' in politics.

"The Party Party would be more centralist, calling for an end to racism and bigotry and stamping this out through education. If you were to ask me for a word that annoys me it would be ignorance," he adds.

Boris Johnson impersonator Drew Galdron will be standing for the Rejoin EU Party under the name Boris Be Bunged. He says he is coming to North Shropshire "for all the sleaze, every single bit of sleaze".

Drew Galdron, a Boris Johnson impersonator, will stand for the Rejoin EU Party. Image: @RichardHewison

In an online video, he answers the door wearing just a Union Jack towel, and speaks of his outrage that the previous North Shropshire MP took £300,000 in breach of lobbying rules.

"£300,000 a year is absolutely outrageous, I could have got at least a million," he says.

James Elliot will be standing for the right-leaning, populist and eurosceptic Heritage Party founded in October last year when then London Assembly member David Kurten broke away from Ukip.

But the party has made little impression in the by-elections it has fought so far.

In this year's Hartlepool by-election, the party took 468 votes a 1.6 per cent share, nevertheless coming fourth out of 16 candidates.

It came last out of 16 candidates at the Batley & Spen by-election, picking up just 33 votes.

Earl Jesse will be standing for the anti-lockdown Freedom Alliance, which is also strongly opposed to vaccine passports.

The Freedom Alliance, along with the Heritage Party, Party Party and Rejoin EU are all 499-1 with the bookies if you fancy a flutter.

And the one thing they will all be desperate to do is to finish above Howling Laud Hope. Because no politician wants to read in the papers that they have been beaten by a Loony.

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News