Javid suggests PM was not to blame for Tories' by-election humiliation

Sajid Javid says Boris Johnson is not to blame for Tories’ by-election humiliation… as he insists his boss is still a winner at the ballot box

  • Lib Dems overturned huge Tory majority to take North Shropshire seat this week
  • Tory critics were quick to blame the historic by-election swing on Boris Johnson 
  • But health secretary Sajid Javid said the result was the fault of the entire party 

Defeat in the North Shropshire by-election was the fault of ‘the Conservative Party collectively’, Sajid Javid said yesterday.

Tory critics were swift to blame Boris Johnson for the loss of the previously safe seat to the Liberal Democrats last week after one of the biggest by-election swings in history.

The Health Secretary admitted it was a ‘disappointing result’ but suggested the party as a whole bore responsibility.

He also praised the Prime Minister’s ability to ‘win election after election’, adding: ‘I think Boris Johnson is the best person to take us through the challenges the country faces.’

Lib Dem Helen Morgan was elected in North Shropshire with a majority of almost 6,000 to heap more pressure on the Prime Minister and send shockwaves through the Conservatives but health secretary Sajid Javid said the historic defeat was the fault of the entire party

The Lib Dems overturned a massive Tory majority to take the North Shropshire seat by almost 6,000 votes on Thursday.

The by-election came after Owen Paterson resigned having been found to have breached lobbying rules following an attempt by the Tories to prevent him serving a 30-day suspension.

The result sent shock waves through Westminster after weeks of damaging headlines about Tory ‘sleaze’ and reports of parties in No 10 breaching Covid restrictions last year.

Mr Javid told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday: ‘I think we got a number of things wrong. How we handled the Owen Paterson affair was wrong and I’ve said that before.

The Health Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured) admitted it was a ‘disappointing result’ but suggested the Conservative party as a whole bore responsibility for the defeat in Shropshire

‘I think that was hugely damaging because he was their MP. And a lot of his constituents wouldn’t have liked what has happened.

And I think some of the recent news around whether there were gatherings in No 10 or not… or even Christmas parties. The fact that it’s been investigated hasn’t helped.

‘So it’s a disappointing result. Let’s not sugar-coat it and pretend there’s some good lining in it.’

Farmers are voters too and Tories must stop ignoring us

By Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers Union 

Lord Frost gave several reasons for his ‘disillusionment’ with the Government’s policy when he dramatically resigned over the weekend.

But as well as the crippling cost of ‘net zero’, high taxes and the Plan B to tackle Covid, there was one vital – and traditionally Conservative – area the former Brexit negotiator did not mention.

That, of course, is the Government’s approach to farming and food production. The media largely neglected the same subject in discussions of last week’s by- election in North Shropshire – which saw the Tories lose a seat they had held for almost 200 years.

But this could scarcely be more important – and it cuts to the heart of what this Government is doing.

Do we want the ‘lightly regulated, low-tax, entrepreneurial economy’ that Lord Frost described – which implies a rejection of farm support alongside much higher imports of food from less regulated countries?

Or are we now a big-state economy with an interventionist industrial strategy, reliant on higher taxes and red tape, so that the Conservative Party can retain the Red Wall voters won at the last election?

NFU president Minette Batters (pictured) says that if we care about where food comes from, animal-welfare standards, and the countryside then we need policies that support our farmers

As far as food and farming go, the way forward is to combine the best of both approaches.

But the lack of strategic thinking in Government means farmers now risk ending up in the worst of both worlds.

If we care about where our food comes from, animal-welfare standards, the environment and the countryside then we need joined-up policies that support our farmers.

This will ensure we really are world leaders in sustainable, climate-friendly farming. I have supported the Government’s commitment to sign trade deals – but our recently announced deal with Australia has serious problems.

The ‘impact assessment’ that came alongside the Australia deal predicted falls in gross output for UK beef and sheep meat. The impact this might have on family farms in areas such as the Welsh uplands is huge.

Free trade is built on the notion that there will be some losers – hopefully outnumbered by the winners – and decades of trade liberalisation show that to be true.

MS Batters say the ‘impact assessment’ that came alongside the Australia deal predicted falls in gross output for UK beef and sheep meat and the impact of that on family farms will be huge

So the rationale for doing deals with big agricultural producers like Australia and New Zealand is to import more food from them. And that is what we’ve agreed to – in spades.

It must be obvious, then, that our Government will do all it can to help British farmers compete in this cutthroat new environment. But no. In contrast to Lord Frost’s view of a ‘lightly regulated’ system, we see Defra promoting the counter position with considerable success.

Farmers are now facing an Animal Sentience Bill, a Kept Animal Bill and Animal Welfare Bills, as well as the gold-plating of EU laws and regulations.

And Government increasingly seems to support the removal of land from food production – often by ‘rewilding’, this threatens farmers’ livelihoods as well as Britain’s self-sufficiency and food security.

As UK trade policy forces British farmers to go toe to toe with imports from some of the most efficient farmers in the world, another Government department is tying their hands behind their backs.

We’re still culling healthy pigs and putting pig farmers out of business. Due to lack of seasonal workers, this summer £60million worth of unharvested crops were wasted, left to rot in the fields. Thanks to inflation, our costs are sky-rocketing.

Due to a lack of seasonal workers in abattoirs, British farmers are still culling healthy pigs

The reality is now clear. Farm incomes will come under pressure. Costs will go up. And we will increasingly have to compete with imports which don’t face the same standards and regulations UK farmers adhere to.

Government needs to be straight with farmers and the public about the impacts of its current two-tiered approach.

They need to face up to the reality of the decisions they’re taking, commit in writing to growing our self-sufficiency in food production and bring together a food and farming policy that works for everyone.

And it’s time for this Government to remember it cannot rely for ever on that vital voter base: Farmers and rural populations.

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