Liberal Democrats win in Tiverton and Honiton biggest in by-election history

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Richard Foord after winning by-election (REUTERS)
Richard Foord after winning by-election (REUTERS)

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said his party’s historic victory in the traditional Tory stronghold of Tiverton and Honiton showed it was time for Boris Johnson to quit.

The Lib Dems produced another major shock, overturning the biggest majority in by-election history, to win the rural Devon seat which has voted Conservative ever since it was formed in 1997.

It is the third time the party has defeated the Tories in by-elections in the last few months following their victories in Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire and will alarm Conservatives in so-called ‘blue wall’ seats in the south of England.

Sir Ed told LBC: “We are smiling here and the message from Tiverton and Honiton, the people here in Devon, is that Boris Johnson must go. I think they’ve spoken for the whole of the British people and it really is time he left.”

The party’s candidate Richard Foord, a former Army major, won the Devon seat with a majority of 6,144 after the constituency saw a swing of almost 30 per cent.

Lord Barwell, a forrmer Tory MP and chief of staff to former Prime Minister Theresa May, described the result as “catastrophic”.

He told Sky News: “It’s one of the safest Conservative seats in the country. It’s a strongly Leave-supporting constituency.

“So, for the Liberal Democrats to be winning there, and winning comfortably, it means that there’s a whole swathe of seats across the south of the country that are vulnerable.”

Before the Lib Dems’ triumph in Tiverton and Honiton, the biggest majority overturned in a by-election was in Liverpool Wavertree in 1935 when Labour wiped out a Conservative majority of 23,972.

According to the pollster Joe Twyman there are 291 Conservative MPs who have smalller majorities than the one overturned by the Lib Dems in Devon.

Mr Foord said voters had turned to his party not only because of concerns over the Prime Minister’s intergrity and the partygate storm but also because of growing concerns over the cost of living crisis.

But his campaign also focused on local issues, notably payments to farmers, broadband and ambulance waiting times.

Mr Foord said in his victory speech: “These are difficult times for our country. The cost of living crisis - as we know here in Devon - is hitting hard: people forced to choose between filling up their car, or putting food on the table.

“Our local NHS is teetering on the brink. Our rural economy is in a precarious state with people’s livelihoods at risk. Our country is crying out for leadership.”

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