The Tory candidate who stood in the North Shropshire by-election had a bit of an awkward one when he struggled to answer a question about the prime minister’s “honesty and integrity” four times.

The Mail’sMichael Crick asked Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst if he thought Boris Johnson held those important traits four times before he got a straight (ish) answer.

Shastri-Hurt’s first response to the question “do you think Boris Johnson is a man of honesty and integrity?” was: “The prime minister has been very clear. He’s ordered an inquiry to look into the [Christmas party] allegation...”

That didn’t seem to address the question so Crick interrupted and asked the same question again.

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Shastri-Hurt then said: “The prime minister has been absolutely clear. He’s going to have an investigation which is done independently by the cabinet secretary and if there has been any misconduct, then action will be taken.”

Hmm. Not really an answer is it bestie? So Crick, appearing a bit frustrated, tried again.

“I find it extraordinary you can’t answer yes or no to that question,” he lamented. “Is the prime minister a man of honesty and integrity?”

“I’m absolutely confident the prime minister is the right man to do the job,” he said before Crick cut him off and asked him the question for a fourth time.

“I have no reason to question the prime minister’s integrity on this issue,” Shastri-Hurst finally said. Phew. We got there.

Reacting to his line of questioning, Crick received praise while people were rather embarrassed for Shastri-Hurst:

In the by-election, the Liberal Democrats overturned a huge Tory majority to win the seat. It was one of the most comprehensive by-election defeats in recent decades.

The vote came after the previous MP Owen Paterson resigned after being found to have broken lobbying rules. Initially handed a suspension for doing so, Paterson became a source of public outrage after Johnson’s government sought to block the suspension and let him off the hook.

It also followed the beleaguered prime minister being battered by claims of lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street.

Elsewhere in the interview, Crick said that there were reasons to doubt the prime minister’s integrity and brought up ongoing allegations about parties hosted in Downing Street over the festive period in 2020 while the public followed strict coronavirus restrictions.

“If people aren’t following the rules, I’m very angry about that but what’s really important and what we mustn’t forget is it’s this country that forged again with the vaccine rollout”, Shastri-Hurst said and it seemed like he’d been taken a leaf out of Johnson’s PMQs playbook by doing so.

Those in the constituency are casting their votes today and the results of the election are expected in the early hours of tomorrow morning. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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