The polls open in Tiverton and Honiton, Wakefield and local by-elections

It is 7.00am and the polls have opened in the two headline by-elections of today. The Lib Dems have been prioritising their efforts in Tiverton and Honiton in mid-Devon, with hundreds of activists and most of the party’s MPs turning out to deliver leaflets and knock on doors. Labour’s interest of course has been in Wakefield where it hopes to begin taking back the Red Wall seats it lost in 2019.

Both by-elections were triggered by MPs resigned in disgrace.

Keir Starmer has said a victory in Wakefield “could be the birthplace of the next Labour government”. If Labour win, Starmer can face down his critics in the constituency and in the shadow cabinet who describe him as “boring”.

Ed Davey is under no such pressure – the Lib Dems having secured two impressive by-election victories in Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire within just over a year. He has been very active in all the campaigns, including in Tiverton and Honiton. He is also more social and comfortable with voters than Starmer appears to be.

Campaigning in Tiverton and Honiton

The messages coming from the traditionally Tory leaning Country Land and Bus Association (CLA) show how far support for Boris Johnson’s government has dwindled in the rural shires. On LDV in May, CLA President Harry Tufnell called for the Lib Dems to develop stronger rural policies to fill the vacuum left by the Tories. In The House yesterday, Tufnell said: “Under the Conservatives, the rural economy has become 18 per cent less productive than the average.” He said Labour was making a mistake in ignoring rural areas where the Conservatives are just two points ahead of Labour.

Aside from the national dramas, there are four council by-elections today in:

  • Highley, Shropshire
  • Neath Port Talbot, Port Talbot
  • Hindhead, Waverley
  • Bush Fair, Harlow

There is also a deferred election today in:

  • New Malden Village, Kingston

I have been watching Highley with interest as it is just down the road from me. Previously held by the Lib Dems and then by an independent, the vacant seat is being keenly fought between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives, with Labour making a late rally. I am hoping for good news from the count.

Some of the Highley Campaign team

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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