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Boris Johnson gets Tory candidate’s name wrong in by-election visit blunder

The Prime Minister made the gaffe on a visit to North Shropshire, where voters will go to the polls in two weeks’ time to replace shamed Tory MP Owen Paterson

Blundering Boris Johnson got the name of his own Tory candidate wrong on a visit ahead of a looming by-election.

The Prime Minister made the gaffe on a visit to North Shropshire, where voters will go to the polls in two weeks’ time to replace shamed Tory MP Owen Paterson.

On a whistle-stop visit to Oswestry in the constituency, Mr Johnson hailed candidate Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst as “fantastic” – but mangled the surname of the Conservative Party hopeful, by calling him Dr Neil Shastri-Hughes.

The PM, who wearing a mask, said: “I think we’ve got a fantastic candidate, Dr Neil Shastri-Hughes, who I’ve just been seen contributing already to the life of the community by vaccinating people, he’s a doctor amongst his many other talents and what he’s also going to do is work very, very hard for the people of North Shropshire.

“I used to live in this constituency, I used to come shopping in Oswestry, so I know it a bit.

Boris Johnson meets staff during a visit to a pharmacy in the North Shropshire constituency



“And he’s got all the issues, he understands what needs to be done, to support the NHS to get investment into our hospitals here but also make sure we do things like, duelling the A5, looking at the Oswestry to Gobowen railway line, other projects like that, I think he’s a fantastic candidate.”

The Prime Minister later referred to the candidate as “Dr Neil” after he watched the medic give vaccinations to members of the public at a pharmacy in Oswestry.

The by-election was triggered to replace Owen Paterson after the Standards Committee recommended the former Conservative minister should be suspended from Parliament for 30 days over an “egregious” breach of a ban on paid lobbying by MPs.

After a botched Government bid to delay the suspension while also overhauling the standards system, Mr Paterson announced his resignation as MP for the constituency following a Government U-turn.

North Shropshire is considered to be an ultra-safe rural constituency for the Tories, with Mr Paterson having held it since 1997.

At the 2019 general election, Mr Paterson won almost 63% of the vote and beat Labour by nearly 23,000 votes, with the Lib Dems coming third.

Labour, the Lib Dems and a slew of other parties are contesting the poll on December 16.

It comes after the Tories held Old Bexley and Sidcup on Friday after a by-election to replace ex-minister James Brokenshire, who died of cancer in October.

Conservative Louie French won the seat – but the Tory majority was slashed from nearly 19,000 to just under 5,000 votes.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson insisted that Christmas should go ahead “as normally as possible” this year despite concerns about the Omicron variant.

Asked what he had to say to bereaved families following the Mirror’s exclusive report on claims No 10 held lockdown-breaking Christmas parties last year, Mr Johnson said: “What I’ve said throughout, since this thing was brought up, was that’s not true, we’ve followed the guidance throughout and continued to follow the guidance.

“And on the subject of Christmas parties, I’ve noticed there’s been quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about it, people concerned that they need to cancel their Christmas parties. That’s not right, we’re not saying that and we’re not saying that nativity plays have to be cancelled.

“I believe very strongly that kids should be in school and I also think that Christmas should go ahead as normally as possible. But the key point, the key point is that whatever the risk Omicron may pose, or may not pose, the booster is everywhere and always, vaccination is going to be your best protection, so everybody should get it.”

Asked again repeatedly if he did have a party or gathering, the Prime Minister repeated the phrase: “We followed the guidance.”

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