‘He’s not a good MP’: North Shropshire locals react to Owen Paterson scandal

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  • Owen Paterson
    British Conservative Party politician (born 1956)
<span>Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

In the North Shropshire market town of Oswestry, most of the shoppers and locals hadn’t heard that their local MP, Owen Paterson, is facing a 30-day suspension from the House of Commons for breaching lobbying rules.

While some people in the town described him as “slimy”, or said he “should know better” and was “in it for himself”, most were apathetic, believing that all MPs use their influence to make money on the side.

On Church Street, which snakes its way through the town centre, Deborah Seward said she was “absolutely stunned” by the news but added: “I do think they are all as bad as each other. I don’t think you can trust any of them.”

Deborah Seward.
Deborah Seward said Paterson didn’t want to talk to people. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Asked if Paterson was a good MP, she said: “I haven’t heard good things about him as a person so from what I have heard I don’t think I would have trusted him, but I didn’t think he was this bad.

“I met him once at an Age UK event but he didn’t seem interested in speaking to anyone. He didn’t mingle. In politics you have to talk to people but he didn’t do that.”

Seward said she didn’t think local people would stand by him. “I am really shocked though. I can’t wait to tell my husband.”

Another local resident, Gavin Roberts, said he always votes for the Conservatives but nevertheless still believed all MPs were “crooked”.

Gavin Roberts.
Gavin Roberts said all MPs were ‘crooked’. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

“They are all bad from what I see on the news – and I mean all of them. It doesn’t matter about the party they are in.”

Asked whether he should lose his seat, he said: “What will be will be. If he has done wrong then he is going to have to accept the consequences. He should be representing local people, not big business – that’s literally his job.”

Nearby, Ian Watkins, a retiree, was sitting on a bench waiting for his wife to come out of a shop. Paterson, he said, had been an “OK” MP.

Ian Watkins.
Ian Watkins said he had thought the MP was ‘straightforward’. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

“I know he has had problems in the past but I thought he was a straightforward sort of chap now. With him having lost his wife the way that he did, I do feel a lot of sympathy for him. Not that I would vote for him, mind.”

Watkins knew the former MP, John Biffen, quite well. “There is no comparison between the two in my opinion. John would be walking down this street and everyone would be saying hello to him and he would know everyone. Owen doesn’t do that.”

Joshua Tomley, a student, said Paterson should be sacked. “Even before this, he wasn’t helping with people like those in need of council houses. He hasn’t helped when people have needed him.

“He’s not a good MP. He just doesn’t engage with people here.”

Owen Paterson MP.
Owen Paterson MP faces suspension from the Commons for an ‘egregious’ breach of lobbying rules. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Alamy

Campaigners from opposition parties, meanwhile, have called for Paterson to resign immediately over the controversy, saying he had let local people down.

Helen Morgan, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for North Shropshire, said: “My day job is in the private sector. If I had breached the code of conduct to the extent found here I would be fired, with no dispute.”

She said the findings were a “damning indictment of the sleaze his party is becoming known for” and said he had let people in North Shropshire down.

Graeme Currie, a North Shropshire Labour party member who has stood as a parliamentary candidate in the last three elections, said Paterson had disgraced himself and must resign. “He does not work for the people of North Shropshire, he works for his lobby firms that line his pockets.”

He added that he knew that people would get behind a recall petition and was confident that 10% of local voters would support a byelection to remove him.

Down an alleyway, just off Church Street, the doors of the North Shropshire Conservative party office were closed on Tuesday and no one answered when the Guardian knocked.

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