Owen Paterson has thrown British farmers on the scrapheap, Lib Dems warn

lib dems voted to protect farmers, animals welfare & food standards

The Liberal Democrats have warned Owen Paterson should “hang his head in shame” for voting against measures to protect high environmental and animal welfare standards.

Conservative MPs rejected amendments to the Agriculture Bill which would have forced the UK Government to ensure that British food and animal welfare standards are maintained in any trade deals.

Owen Paterson failed to back these measures, despite over a million people signing an NFU petition calling for the UK Government to put laws in place that prevent imports of food that is produced in ways that are illegal here in the UK, and a well supported local on-line petition.

The Liberal Democrats have committed to continuing the fight to protect British farmers, including exploring further amendments to the Trade Bill.

Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson MP hadn't voted to support British Farmers. Helen is pictured supporting Helen supporting rare-breed farming in 2019
Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson MP hadn’t voted to support British Farmers.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson Helen Morgan added:

“The Conservatives promised to protect British farmers, but they have betrayed that promise. 

“We now risk seeing foods that are currently illegal in the UK – like hormone treated beef, and fruit and vegetables produced using banned pesticide – making it onto our supermarket shelves.

“Owen Paterson should hang his head in shame. Despite the constraints of lockdown, North Shropshire Liberal Democrats were able to deliver a well supported on-line petition to him, highlighting the concerns of local residents about farming and food standards. He ignored them. He has let everyone across North Shropshire down by putting Boris Johnson’s government first.

Liberal Democrat Rural Affairs Spokesperson Tim Farron said:

“Unlike the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats back British farming. We want the Government to work in partnership with UK farmers to protect our world class food and animal welfare standards, cut greenhouse gas emissions and support the recovery of our natural environment.

“We will do everything we can to continue the fight to protect British farmers, including exploring further amendments to the Trade Bill.”

Owen Paterson must use last chance to back farmers

Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson MP hadn't voted to support British Farmers. Helen is pictured supporting Helen supporting rare-breed farming in 2019

The North Shropshire Liberal Democrats have called on Owen Paterson to back British farming this week, and vote to protect our high environmental and animal welfare standards.

In a letter to Owen Paterson, Helen Morgan, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for North Shropshire, warned the Tories must not “risk farmers’ livelihoods to win a favourable trade deal from the USA.”

The votes come on Wednesday 04/11/2020 in amendments to the Agriculture Bill. The Liberal Democrats want MPs to ensure any post-Brexit trade deals meet UK animal welfare and food safety rules.

According to the NFU, over a million people have also signed their petition calling for the UK Government to put laws in place that prevent imports of food that is produced in ways that are illegal here in the UK.

Liberal Democrat Rural Affairs Spokesperson Tim Farron said:

“Farmers across the country are incredibly worried that the UK is about to be flooded with poor quality food undercutting their high quality produce.

“It doesn’t need to be this way. Liberal Democrats back British farming and want to work in partnership with our farmers to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, support the recovery of our natural environment all while continuing to produce the food that fills our cupboards.”

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for North Shropshire, Helen Morgan added:

“The Conservatives must not risk farmers’ livelihoods to win a favourable trade deal from the USA.

“If Owen Paterson is to truly back British farmers, he must vote to ensure any post-Brexit trade deals meet UK animal welfare and food safety rules.”

Please sign our petition calling for Owen Paterson to back British farmers, food producers and local jobs.

North Shropshire Lib Dems dismayed as local mp rejects free school meals for hungry children

o child should go hungry

Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson Helen Morgan has expressed disappointment that North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson failed to support proposals for free school meals in the holidays, despite a recent Children’s Society report showing 31% of children in North Shropshire live in poverty.

Helen said:

‘The report by the Children’s Society makes sobering reading – nearly a third of North Shropshire’s children live in poverty. It’s just unacceptable for their own MP to reject measures designed to help them, when they have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

‘These numbers aren’t theoretical. The Oswestry and Borders food bank has reported a 42% increase in the number of people needing help from April to September, showing that more and more local families are struggling to feed their children. It’s outrageous that the Conservatives do not recognise this hardship.

‘That’s why Kirsty Williams, the Lib Dem Education Minister for Wales, has acted to help hungry children in Wales, and why the Liberal Democrats are joining Marcus Rashford in his campaign to ensure that the most vulnerable English children don’t go hungry in the school holidays.’

No child should have to go hungry, on any day of the year

No child should have to go hungry, on any day of the year – add your name to the campaign

Liberal Democrats are calling for:

  • Free school meals to every pupil whose parents or guardians are in receipt of Universal Credit
  • Food vouchers for every one of those pupils in every school holiday and during any period of lockdown
  • Free school meals to pupils from low-income families whose parents or guardians have no recourse to public funds and destitute asylum seekers.

For more information:

The Liberal Democrat campaign for free school meals can be found here

The full report by the Children’s society for North Shropshire can be found here:

The news release by the Oswestry and Borders Foodbank can be found here:

Helen Morgan
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for North Shropshire
07508 550361

Contact us if you would like to join our fight for a better Shropshire

Condolences for a tragic loss

Owen Paterson MP

Our sincere condolences to Owen Paterson, family and friends for their tragic loss. Devastating news 😢
https://news.sky.com/…/wife-of-tory-mp-owen-paterson-found-…

Heartbreaking news. I know from my own experience what how devastating this will be. Heartfelt condolences to Owen Paterson, family and friends

Constituency Chair, David Walker

I was shocked to read this news this afternoon – so sad for Owen Paterson and his family. My sincere condolences to them.

Helen Morgan – Parliamentary spokesperson for North Shropshire Liberal Democrats

Open Letter to Owen Paterson MP for North Shropshire

 

Open letter to Owen Paterson MP for North Shropshire, requesting a response to the Prime Minister’s press conference this evening.

Dear Mr Paterson,

This evening I have watched the Downing Street press conference. As you can imagine I am angered and frankly frightened about the damage the Prime Minister has inflicted on the country in such a short time.

He has effectively endorsed breaking the law, avoided legitimate questions about his own knowledge of Mr Cummings’ trips, and lied outright, not least by asserting that Mr Cummings was in need of childcare when it is known that this was not the case.

It is deeply insulting to those of us who have endured the lockdown for the greater good. Loved ones have died and been buried alone. Fathers have been unable to attend the births of their babies. Elderly relatives have been isolated from their adult children and their grandchildren.

More worryingly, it shows that Mr Johnson does not value the rule of law. He has lied to the nation in a live public broadcast, without conscience. Trust in the government will be undermined after this shameful display, and meaningful enforcement of public health measures could be very difficult. It is my belief that continued support from our MP is untenable.

I would be grateful if you could address the most concerning elements:

Number 10 Downing Street issued a statement which accused Durham Police of lying about speaking to Mr Cummings’ family. However Durham Police have confirmed that they indeed spoke to Mr Cummings’ family.  At a time when public trust in the Government guidance is critical to save lives, are you comfortable with the Prime Minister’s office issuing statements that are apparently false?

In Saturday’s evening press conference, the Transport Secretary suggested that the guidance had always been open to personal interpretation. However, experience shows the vast majority of the British public, and evidently Durham Police, felt that the guidance, ‘if you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus, do not leave your home for any reason’ was unequivocal. Are you comfortable with the guidance being retrospectively twisted to save the career of an unelected bureaucrat, unaccountable to the British people?

In light of the immense community efforts taking place across the country, it is simply not credible that Mr Cummings’ family could not find the support that they needed in London. In the unlikely event that they are friendless, have no family in the area, and were unable to find paid support, there are community groups who would have helped them with their food shopping during the period.

In backing Mr Cummings, Mr Johnson has undermined public trust to an extraordinary degree, and now threatens the public health initiative.  The country desperately needs this to be effective, so that life can return to normal as soon as possible.

Democracy ends with ‘one rule for the people and another for the elite’ and the public will rightly not accept it. I am extremely concerned that social distancing, already fraying, will now become unenforceable, risking a very damaging second wave of the virus. There is a risk that thousands of people will lose their lives, and many thousands more will lose their jobs and businesses. This issue could not be more serious.

Mr Johnson has shown breath-taking arrogance and contempt for the public sacrifice made over recent weeks. You have made no public comment regarding the matter. Your constituents deserve to know whether you will be continuing to support him in light of the weekend’s dramatic developments.

I look forward to the publication of your response.

Yours sincerely,

Helen Morgan

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for North Shropshire
07508 550361
CC: North Shropshire Liberal Democrats, Shropshire Star, Oswestry and Border Counties Advertiser, Whitchurch Herald, BBC Shropshire, ITV Central News, Oswestry Chronicle

Angry response as Owen Paterson voted against protecting British Farmers

Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson MP hadn't voted to support British Farmers. Helen is pictured supporting Helen supporting rare-breed farming in 2019

Today Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson voted in parliament to undermine hard-working farmers in North Shropshire. Yesterday, local MP Owen Paterson voted against an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that would have prevented trade deals which undermine current UK food and farming standards.

Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson MP hadn't voted to support British Farmers. Helen is pictured supporting Helen supporting rare-breed farming in 2019
Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson MP hadn’t voted to support British Farmers.

Helen (Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for North Shropshire) said: “I’m so angry that our MP ignores the needs of the local economy. In voting against the amendment he has effectively told farmers ‘we’ll sell you out to get our US trade deal, complete with hormone-fed beef and chlorinated chicken’. It’s outrageous.

“This amendment would have protected our farmers by preventing trade deals which allow the import of goods with lower production, animal welfare, environmental and labour standards.

“Along with the looming ‘no deal’ Brexit at the end of the year, our farmers are looking at tariffs on their exports and critical imports (such as machinery and fertiliser) and no protection from substandard food imports in any future trade deals.

“Agriculture and the food industries are our major employer here in North Shropshire, but our MP is more interested in an ideologically pure Brexit than protecting our jobs. North Shropshire deserves better”.

Neil Parish, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, had called on MPs to back his amendment providing protection of our current production standards in law, saying:

“There is no point having world-leading standards in the UK if we do not expect trade partners to reciprocate. Allowing preferential access to food imports produced to lower standards will put many of our farmers at a competitive disadvantage and out of business.

“Not only will this export jobs in farming and food production, it will export the impact of this production, turning a blind eye to poor animal welfare standards abroad and encouraging environmental degradation there. We will be exporting control, not taking it back.”

Helen said: “Mr Paterson has notoriously travelled to the US to listen to the concerns of lobbyists there. But to safeguard jobs in North Shropshire he should be supporting British farmers and food producers. Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for our local industry and local jobs in North Shropshire”.

The NFU had been calling for greater protection for British Farms in the Agricultural Bill
The NFU had been calling for greater protection for British Farms in the Agricultural Bill


Yesterday MPs voted on a series of amendments to the Agricultural Bill

All MPs were sent a letter urging them to back British Farming
The letter said:
“As representatives of farming, consumer, environmental and animal welfare
organisations across the UK, we are urging you to take this last proper
opportunity to ensure that the Bill secures vital safeguards for the high
standards of food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection that
the public value so highly. At this time of crisis, you have the opportunity to
ensure that British farmers can produce the sustainable, healthy food we
need knowing that they will not be undercut by low standards imports as a
result of future trade policy, while meeting the public’s strong expectation
that food standards will be maintained. ”

The letter was co-signed by:

  • Minette Batters – President, National Farmers Union
  • Beccy Speight – Chief Executive, RSPB
  • Chris Sherwood – Chief Executive, RSPCA
  • Miriam Turner and Hugh Knowles – Co-Chief Executives, Friends of the Earth
  • Mark Bridgeman – President, CLA
  • Hilary McGrady – Director-General, National Trust
  • Helen Browning – Chief Executive, Soil Association
  • Sue Davies – Head of Consumer Protection and Food Policy, Which?
  • Patrick Holden – Chief Executive, Sustainable Food Trust
  • Shaun Spiers – Chair, Greener UK & Executive Director, Green Alliance
  • Craig Bennett – Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts
  • Richard Benwell – Chief Executive, Wildlife and Countryside Link
  • Kath Dalmeny – Chief Executive, Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming
  • John Davies – President, NFU Cymru
  • Caroline Drummond – Chief Executive, LEAF
  • George Dunn – Chief Executive, Tenant Farmers Association
  • Ivor Ferguson – President, Ulster Farmers Union
  • Jyoti Fernandes MBE – Chair, Landworkers Alliance
  • Martin Lines – UK Chair, Nature-Friendly Farming Network
  • Andrew McCornick – President, NFU Scotland
  • Darren Moorcroft – Chief Executive, Woodland Trust
  • Kate Norgrove – Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, WWF-UK
  • Doug Parr – Chief Scientist, Greenpeace
  • James Thornton – Chief Executive, ClientEarth
  • James Robinson – Conservation Director, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
  • Sarah-Jane Laing – Chief Executive, Scottish Land & Estates.

Owen Paterson voted against British farmers

Owen Patterson MP for North Shropshire voted against the amendments that the NFU and the other signatories were calling for.  Clause 2 proposed by Neil Parish, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee would have safeguarded British Farms from inferior quality cheap imports and protected the animal welfare and food standards the public expects.

Owen Paterson failed to vote to support British Farmers
Owen Paterson was surprising satisfied that he had hadn’t voted to support British Farmers

Owen Paterson failed to vote to support British Farmers
Owen Paterson failed to vote to support British Farmers on the crucial amendments the NFU and others were calling for.

North Shropshire Lib Dems had previously backed the NFU’s calls to back British farmers. Before the coronavirus lockdown, we had launched a Farming and Food Standards petition to that effect urging Owen Paterson to:

  • Oppose any deals allowing imports of food that would fail to meet our current world-leading standards of hygiene and animal welfare.
  • Add concrete legal protections into the Agriculture Bill to keep current protections for food standards, hygiene and animal welfare, in time for the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020.

Report stage of the Agricultural Bill

13 May 2020
Division 42
Ayes: 277 Noes: 328 (Owen Paterson voted  No)
13 May 2020
Division 43
Ayes: 221 Noes: 352 (Owen Paterson voted  No)
13 May 2020
Division 44
Ayes: 56 Noes: 362 (Owen Paterson voted  No)

Third reading of the Agricultural Bill

13 May 2020
Division 45
Ayes: 360 Noes: 211 (Owen Paterson voted  Yes)
Indeed all of Shropshire’s Conservative MPs failed to back British Farming despite pledging to do so in their manifesto

Reaction to the votes on the Agricultural Bill yesterday

“Despite frequent warm words, it is disappointing the government did not take the opportunity to legislate that they will not allow the imports of food that would be illegal to produce here.” NFU Brexit director Nick von Westenholz‘s response to the Agriculture Bill report stage.

Soil Association reaction: Liz Bowles, Assoc. Director of Food and Farming at the Soil Association said: “As a farmer, and a member of society, I was disappointed in yesterday’s outcome.”
Liz manages one of the largest pedigree flocks of Shropshire sheep in the UK and combines this with being a Council Member of the Breed Society.

Demand Better for farming and food industries
Demand Better for farming and food industries

Shropshire Council Lib Dems call for Highways Cabinet Member to resign

Conservative-run Shropshire Council isn't working as it should

Shropshire Councillors are calling for the resignation of Cllr Steve Davenport who is the Cabinet Member responsible for a failing Highways Department unable to deal with the County’s growing pothole problem.

Councillors from the Opposition Liberal Democrat Group on Shropshire Council will submit a question to the next Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 12th February demanding that Councillor Steve Davenport resign.

“We’ve had enough,” said Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Roger Evans. “Councillors in my Group have raised issues at many meetings but the assurances they are given rarely result in any improvements. Someone has to take responsibility for this failure.”

“During the whole of 2019 Liberal Democrat Councillors were raising issues about the growing number of potholes and the general failure of Shropshire Highways and its contractors Kier and WSP to deal with the problem. Despite these assurances, many from Cllr Davenport himself, the Council felt the need to appoint a consultant to tell them what was going wrong. Clearly whatever action Cllr Davenport had taken over the past year was not working. He should resign.”

When asked at last year’s July Council Meeting for an update by Cllr Chris Mellings, Cllr Davenport said that “the performance of both Kier and WSP is actively managed by officers and that I take a personal interest in that process.” He said that there had been challenges but Cllr Davenport concluded that “meaningful progress is being made and our focus is on providing as good a service as is possible across the whole of Shropshire.”

In September 2019, Cllr David Vasmer put a motion to a full Council meeting demanding that Shropshire review its £21m contract with Kier – it does most of Shropshire Highways work on the ground.

In October a whistle-blower contacted Cllr David Vasmer accusing Shropshire of not authorising payments to Kier properly. At a meeting of Place Overview in November, Cllr Vasmer and Cllr Roger Evans asked a series of questions but received assurances that there was nothing to worry about.

At the December Council Meeting Cllr Davenport finally acknowledged that there had been problems with the Kier contract which he said were being tackled. He said “we do have concerns over the quality of some work undertaken by Kier and we are working with them to address this”

“Cllr Davenport at this stage was still unaware of the level of dissatisfaction with the Highways Department,” commented Councillor Vasmer. “It was only the Chief Executive’s intervention in the New Year that resulted in any real action being taken, despite repeated assurances

“In a recent email to all Councillors, this is what Cllr Davenport admitted ‘We/I had to make drastic changes to improve….this service, I totally support Clive’s ( the Chief Executive’s) intervention here as he (is) leading from the front, I have no power as a cabinet member to make changes that had to be made.’ By his own admission his interventions have failed, he is powerless and should resign.”

 

2019 General Election Results for North Shropshire

2019 General Election Results for North Shropshire - biggest share growth of any party

Thank you to everybody who voted for Helen Morgan on the 12th of December in the 2019 General Election.

Locally we outperformed the national result, the West Midlands regional result and the result in strongly Leave seats.  Helen’s vote went up by 4.7% – the largest increase in vote share compared to 2017 for any party in North Shropshire.  This was our biggest campaign in a long time. Whilst, the national picture wasn’t great for us – 3 weeks before polling day we were looking at a much better result and aiming to take second place – we held our own and made solid progress in target areas. Owen Paterson’s vote share rose modestly whilst Labour’s collapsed.

We have plenty to build upon as we turn our eyes to the County Elections in 2021. For those elections, the Liberal Democrats are currently the largest opposition group and we expect to make gains in North Shropshire. If you are interested in being a Councillor and standing those elections please get in touch.

Nationally the party saw a disappointing result despite seeing a 4.2% increase in vote share and gaining an extra 1.3 million votes compared to 2017. The Conservatives gained 0.3 million votes and Labour lost 2.6 million votes. Yet in seat terms, the Liberal Democrats lost 1 seat, the Conservatives gained 47 seats and Labour lost 59 seats. Turnout was 67.3%, slightly lower than the last election in 2017. The shows clearly the distortion in seats that First Past the post produces. Under a fair voting system, the Liberal Democrats would have gained upwards of 70 seats. Just one of many reasons why the Liberal Democrats have consistently campaigned for electoral reform over the decades. https://www.libdems.org.uk/lder

Regional breakdown the the 2019 Generela Election: BBC
Lib Dems advanced in every region of the UK. In North Shropshire the Lib Dems grew by 4.7% – more than the national and regional amounts except for London, the South East and East. Labour went down everywhere

Labour lost votes in Leave & Remain areas. The Lib Dems gained in both. As a leave area North Shropshire saw and above par rise for the Lib Dems - rising 2.1% more than Leave areas
Labour lost votes in Leave & Remain areas. The Lib Dems gained in both. As a leave area North Shropshire saw and above par rise for the Lib Dems – rising 2.1% more than Leave areas

Leaked documents reveal Trump trade deal threat to farmers in North Shropshire

Helen Morgan addressing NFU hustings in Prees

Leaked documents from US-UK trade deal talks have revealed the threat facing farmers in North Shropshire from a trade deal with Donald Trump, the Liberal Democrats have warned.

Liberal Democrat candidate for North Shropshire, Helen Morgan said “I hope Owen Paterson (Conservative Candidate for North Shropshire) will make a “cast-iron” guarantee to vote against any lowering of UK food standards that could put local farmers at risk”.

It comes after documents published online yesterday revealed years of talks between UK and US trade negotiators, with American officials pushing to allow greater use of chemicals in food production, including chlorine-washing chicken. The US team even offered ‘public lines’ on chlorine-washed chicken to help UK officials try to sell the controversial practice to British consumers and help ‘inform the media narrative’.

The US negotiators also said that maintaining the UK’s current high standards for food production was ‘the worst-case scenario’, adding that in a no-deal Brexit there would be ‘all to play for.’

Liberal Democrat candidate Helen Morgan said:

“These documents show that a Donald Trump post-Brexit trade deal poses a grave threat to farmers across North Shropshire. The US has far lower animal welfare and food standards, especially on the use of chemicals and growth hormones. The Conservative party’s desperation for a US trade deal would open the door to these lower food standards being forced onto the UK.

“Farming communities here in North Shropshire are rightly concerned about being undercut by low-standard imports from the US and losing access to vital European markets.

“Conservative candidate Owen Paterson must make a cast-iron guarantee they will vote against any attempts to lower our world-leading food standards as part of a trade deal with Trump.

“The Liberal Democrats will demand better for local farmers and stop Boris Johnson ramming through a damaging Trump trade deal. Every vote here will make a difference in stopping Johnson getting a majority and making sure he is held to account.”

Helen Morgan addressing the NFU hustings in Prees
Helen Morgan warned the audience at the NFU hustings in Prees that a US trade deal would open the door to lower food standards undercutting Farming communities here in North Shropshire

Testy Hustings in Market Drayton

The first General Election Hustings in Market Drayton last week kicked the General Election into high gear in North Shropshire. The at-times testy hustings for about 200 people with our candidate Helen Morgan (Liberal Democrats), Owen Paterson (Conservatives), Graeme Currie (Labour Party) and John Adams (Green Party) representing the candidates in the General Election.

We are biased but Helen had a great husting and we have received many, many compliments on her performance. Owen didn’t have such a good time but don’t just take our word for it, here if the video of the hustings and decide for yourself:

Many, many one nation Conservatives are now backing Helen upset with how their party has now become such an extreme party. Helen represents a sane, rational, pragmatic voice for North Shropshire with the honesty, integrity and energy to build a brighter future here.

Many people have commended Helen on her first Hustings performance
Many people have commended Helen on her first Hustings performance

Helen’s opening address to the packed room is here:

My name is Helen Morgan, and I am the Liberal Democrat candidate for our constituency.

You probably recognise Owen and Graeme, but I’m new to the fray, so firstly a little bit about me.

I’m a Chartered Accountant by profession, and I moved here with my husband a few years ago because we wanted to raise our son in Shropshire. I’m here because I’ve been galvanised to take a stand for the things I value: tolerance, honesty, common sense and democracy. We have seen the two old parties of the past being taken over by their extreme factions. The pragmatic ground of the centre has been vacated. Populism is the order of the day. But populism feeds hate and division, and it won’t solve the problems that face this country and constituency. So I’m here to offer a better alternative and a brighter future.

That’s why I’m standing as the Liberal Democrat Candidate. Here’s why I think you should you vote for me?

The first reason is stopping Brexit. The Conservatives and Labour Party are standing here offering to shake the magic money tree, but the reality is that Brexit will blow a £50bn hole in the public budget. It is simply not responsible to take a sledgehammer to the economy with one hand and borrow money willy nilly with the other to try buy off voters. We could end up spending more on interest repayments than we do on educating our children.

The Liberal Democrats will end the uncertainty that is crippling our businesses by stopping Brexit on day one, and using that £50bn we’ve saved, to invest in public services and tackle the terrible inequality in our country. If you’re wondering whether that number is pie in the sky, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has assessed it and called it modest.

The Conservative’s Brexit is so extreme, even Nigel Farage is happy with it. There’s no Brexit Party candidate here because, in effect, we already have one. The reality of Boris Johnson’s withdrawal agreement is that it really doesn’t get Brexit done. A crash out ‘no-deal’ is still on the table. If we avoid it at the end of January, we still have to negotiate a complicated trade deal, that all 27 countries left in the EU must agree to individually, within a very short – most likely impossible timescale. We could easily be threatened with crashing out this time next year.  No deal potentially involves medicine and fresh food shortages. Can you imagine living with the stress of that if your child is insulin dependent? Or your mum is fighting cancer?

As for Labour, they’re not telling us what their view on Brexit is. But it seems unlikely to me that they’ll campaign to Remain when they’ve just negotiated their own Brexit deal.

Brexit is especially important here, because we’re reliant on the farming and food industries for our jobs. For instance, a friend of mine is a farmer who breeds pedigree sheep. He is struggling to sell his sheep into Europe because of the uncertainty. He likens the stress of not-knowing what will happen, to that of the foot and mouth crisis of 2001. There are farmers all across North Shropshire in this position, and for what?

The easiest way to give our farmers and local businesses a stress-free Christmas is to stop Brexit on day 1. That’s what a Liberal Democrat government will do.

But this election isn’t only about Brexit. It’s about who will govern the United Kingdom (if there is still a UK) for the next five years. And there are other key issues that need dealing with.

I have put the NHS first on my list. Here in Shropshire we are seeing first hand the crisis that happens when you chronically underfund the NHS and starve it of workers. Our A&E waiting times are already the worst in the country.

Brexit puts the NHS at even greater risk. Donald Trump has been clear that US pharmaceutical companies want to charge far more for their drugs, and that that’s a key issue in any trade deal. The NHS is not safe if there is Brexit. You can’t trust Johnson’s claims that it’s not true, because you haven’t been able to trust many of his claims to date.

Labour want Brexit, and then a top-down re-organisation of the NHS, which would result in jobs for management consultants, but not necessarily money for the 40,000 nursing vacancies underlying this crisis. And it’s not clear how their four-day working week will help with this chronic understaffing either.

But the Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit to keep the NHS safe from a US trade deal, put 1p on income tax to give the NHS the cash injection it desperately needs. Stopping Brexit will help retain our EU nurses and doctors here while we try to fill the massive number of vacancies we have. We will build the hospitals we actually need for the future.  In the longer term we’ll iron out the gaps between the health and social care by bringing them together, which many especially older people fall through will be ironed out.

Next on the list is education. The public sector pay freeze has left teachers demoralised and the brutal cuts since 2015 have left North Shropshire schools under funded by a total of £6.7 million. We’ll reverse these cuts and recruit 20,000 more teachers to reduce class sizes and give every child the best start.

We need to look to the future as well. In places like this where many people are in low-paid jobs, the march of technology and threat of automation is real.  Just look at the most modern milking parlours, where the cow does all of the hard work itself! If we want our villages to thrive, we need people with skills for the 21st century economy. The Liberal Democrats will provide a £10,000 fund for each adult to retrain or keep their skills up to date over their lifetime.

We also need to consider other essential infrastructure for the future economy. The dreaded ‘B’ word – but this time it’s broadband. I doubt anyone sitting here will need me to tell them that the broadband here can be awful. I bear the scars of trying to connect an office near Prees to the outside world. We don’t think Labour’s plan of spending millions on nationalising the infrastructure is the answer to the question. We’ll legislate to make sure that existing providers meet their obligations to provide rural broadband, and ensure that those obligations are fit for purpose as technology develops.

We’ll also tackle the significant shortage of affordable housing here. While we were attempting to bring the 21st century to our office, I chatted with a BT engineer from Whitchurch – a highly skilled worker with a full-time job and a working wife, who can’t even begin to afford a home or save for a deposit. Our rural plan will require councils to identify the houses we actually need in each area, and the developers to build more affordable housing, so instead of building the wrong homes in the wrong places, we’ll help to ensure that our villages retain the young working families they need to thrive.

I can’t ignore the climate emergency. The Conservatives have done nothing about it. The Labour party seems distracted by a utilities renationalisation programme. The Liberal Democrats have a detailed and credible plan to become a world leader in this area, including banning fracking altogether, generating 80% of electricity from renewables by 2030 and insulating all low-income homes by 2025.

I’ve done a whistle-stop tour of our key policies, but I will stop now and leave you with some thoughts.

We have choice at this election. We can choose extremism or pragmatism. Populism or responsible government.

You could vote Conservative – the party which has completed its journey to the far-right, appeased the Brexit party, been endorsed by convicted criminal Tommy Robinson and is offering the hardest of Brexits with years and years of uncertainty to come as we wrangle over our future trading relationships.

You could vote Labour – the party which has returned to the 1970s, is being investigated by the equalities and human rights commission and will not own up to its policy on the most important issue to face this country since the war.

Or you can vote Liberal Democrat, to stop Brexit, give businesses the certainty they crave, and get a government with a detailed, pragmatic and fully costed plan to solve the severe issues we face as a country.

If you vote for me, you’re voting for all of that, plus a fresh face for North Shropshire, with the honesty, integrity and energy to build a brighter future here.