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North Shropshire by-election: Lib Dems win Tory stronghold

“The Conservatives have suffered a humiliating defeat to the Liberal Democrats in the North Shropshire by-election. Boris Johnson faces a major test of his leadership after the Lib Dems overturned a 23,000 Tory majority to secure a stunning victory with a 34 per cent swing. Helen Morgan, the Lib Dems’ candidate, comfortably won the by-election with 17,957 votes. The Conservatives came second with 12,032 votes. Labour came third on 3,686 and the Green Party came fourth on 1,738. Turnout was 46 per cent… Senior Conservative sources immediately blamed the result on recent stories about Christmas parties held in Downing Street last year and insisted the Tories would retake the seat at the next general election.” – The Times

  • Humiliation for the Prime Minister – Daily Telegraph
  • Christmas nightmare for ‘failed’ Johnson – Daily Mail
  • Majority of 23,000 wiped out – The Sun
  • Tory chair: North Shropshire voters have given us a kicking – The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: The Liberal Democrats win the North Shropshire by-election with one of the biggest swings in modern times

Tories warn Johnson ‘one more strike and you’re out’ after ‘political earthquake’

“Tory MPs have told Boris Johnson he has “one more strike and he’s out”, after the Conservatives lost North Shropshire in an extraordinary swing to the Liberal Democrats. Helen Morgan claimed victory in a seat that has been Tory for nearly 200 years, saying it was down to “thousands of lifelong Conservative voters, dismayed by Boris Johnson’s lack of decency and fed up with being taken for granted”. Ms Morgan secured 17,957 votes, leaving the Conservative Neil Shastri-Hurst with 12,032, and giving the Lib Dems a majority of 5,925. The turnout was 46.3 per cent, or 38,110 voters… One former minister told The Telegraph the result was “what happens when you have a Prime Minister who plays fast and loose with the truth”.” – Daily Telegraph

Sir John Curtice: Leave voters lose faith in Johnson’s ethics and competence

“Not quite unprecedented but certainly a spectacular rejection of the Conservative Party. The voters of North Shropshire triple-underlined the message of the polls that Boris Johnson has fallen into a deep electoral hole in recent weeks. At 34.1 per cent the swing from Conservative to Liberal Democrat is the second highest by-election swing ever from Conservative to Liberal Democrat – only a little behind the 35.4 per cent rebuff that John Major suffered in Christchurch in 1993. Equally, the 31.1-point drop in the Conservatives’ own share of the vote is the second highest the party has ever suffered in the absence of any significant intervention by a party that did not contest the previous general election.” – The Times

  • The Liberal Democrats are little more than a go-to protest party – Ben Obese-Jecty, Daily Telegraph

Police launch investigation into Tory HQ Christmas party attended by Bailey

“The Metropolitan Police will make contact with two people who attended a gathering at the Conservative Party HQ in London on December 14 2020 in relation to alleged breaches of coronavirus regulations. The Met Police said it was aware of a gathering at an address in Matthew Parker Street in London, where the Conservative Party HQ is based, on December 14 2020. In a statement, the force said: “Officers will be making contact with two people who attended in relation to alleged breaches of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations.” The Met also said it is looking into staff gatherings at No.10 Downing Street and the Department for Education in November and December 2020 and is in contact with the Cabinet Office, but will not commence an investigation at this time.” – Daily Telegraph

No 10 slaps down Tory MP over ‘public health socialist state’ tweet

“Downing Street has slapped down a Conservative MP who warned against the UK becoming a “public health socialist state”, after Chris Whitty suggested people cut down on pre-Christmas socialising. Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday alongside the prime minister, England’s chief medical officer urged the public: “Don’t mix with people you don’t have to.” The comments intensified calls from the hospitality sector for financial aid to help them cope with plunging bookings… Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said the prime minister did not agree with the view expressed by Morrissey. “Professor Whitty is a hugely respected and trusted public servant, who provides independent, evidence-based advice,” he said.” – The Guardian

  • Javid chairs emergency meeting of health ministers – Daily Mail
  • Brits face choice of parties in pub with mates or spending Christmas Day – The Sun
  • Wales will close nightclubs – Daily Mail
  • Sturgeon tells Scots to reduce all social contact – The Sun

Comment:

  • Johnson’s embrace of the Big Brother state goes well beyond Covid – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • Covid has split the Prime Minister from his supporters – James Forsyth, The Times

Editorial:

  • Devastating toll of Covid scare tactics – Daily Mail

>Yesterday:

Sunak cuts short California trip amid criticism over lack of support for omicron-hit firms

“Rishi Sunak cut short his trip to California after businesses and MPs fiercely criticised the failure to provide more financial support to firms impacted by the omicron surge. The Chancellor announced he would be flying back earlier than planned, amid mounting frustration at the economic impact of cancellations as people scrap gatherings due to the Covid risk. Mystery remained about exactly what Mr Sunak had been doing in San Francisco, after flying out on Tuesday for what officials described as a “long-planned business trip”. However, the Treasury declined to publish his itinerary or name a single person he was meeting during the visit, with sources simply saying he was meeting business figures.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Chancellor in talks on bailout for pubs and restaurants – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Higher interest rates. If there were ever an era of Boosterism without consequences, it’s over.

UK changes tack over Northern Ireland protocol with push for ‘interim’ deal

“The UK is to change tack in negotiations over the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol and will push for an “interim” deal to avert any further deterioration of political stability in the region. Brexit minister David Frost is set to propose a new approach based on a “staged solution” with a deal on customs declarations and physical checks on goods a priority to address the immediate impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. He will also suggest a new solution for governance, softening the UK’s demand that the European court of justice should be eliminated from dispute resolution entirely. Instead it believes an arbitration proposal in the wider withdrawal agreement – which allows disputes to be settled in the political arena in the first instance – could work in the Northern Ireland context.” – The Guardian

>Today: David Willetts’ column: Is it too hard for Ministers to exercise power in modern Britain?

>Yesterday: Stephen Booth’s column: We approach the anniversary of the UK/EU trade agreement. And already, it seems like a lifetime ago.

UK and Australia sign trade deal to open ‘new frontiers’

“The UK and Australia have signed a trade deal to cut tariffs on imports of wine and surfboards and make it easier for young Britons to work down under. The deal, announced by the prime ministers Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison in June, was finalised at a virtual signing ceremony. But the agreement, the first to be negotiated from scratch since Brexit, is expected to add little to economic growth. Critics have warned about its impact on British farmers and questioned its commitments on tackling climate change. The final deal was signed by Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the international trade secretary, last night. She said it was “a landmark moment”. Trevelyan said the deal “is tailored to the UK’s strengths, and delivers for businesses, families, and consumers in every part of the UK — helping us to level up.”” – The Times

>Today: Shanker Singham in Comment: Today’s signing of the UK-Australia deal symbolises a new economic era for Global Britain

News in Brief:

  • A ‘British Bill of Rights’ would be a big step backwards – Henry Hill, CapX
  • It’s time for Boris to go – Giles Fraser, UnHerd
  • Wallace takes aim at the misuse of the military – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • The problem with “teacher activism” – Sarah Phillimore, The Critic