Tiverton and Honiton: “The Major from Uffculme” wins for the Lib Dems

Congratulations to Richard Foord and the Lib Dem team on a convincing win in mid-Devon. Richard took the Lib Dems from third place to a majority of 6,144 votes. It is a stonking win and with Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire completes a hattrick of by-election victories. Foord comfortably overturned the 24,239 majority won at the December 2019 general election by former Tory MP Neil Parish – who was forced to resign after he was seen viewing pornography in the House of Commons.

One resident is quoted by the Express as calling Richard Foord “the Major from Uffculme, a good local bloke.” That moniker might stick.

Tonight also saw local council gains in Highley, Kingston and Waverley.

There was a good turnout for a by-election of 52.3% (42,707) – the 2019 general election was 72%. The average turnout for a by-election is 50.9%. North Shropshire turnout was 46.2% and Chesham and Amersham 52.1%. The votes for the main candidates were:

  • Richard Foord (Lib Dem): 22,537
  • Helen Hurford (Con): 16,393
  • Liz Pole (Lab): 1,562

The votes in full.

Throughout yesterday the Conservatives, including Boris Johnson, were keen to talk down the significance of losing two by-elections in a day, claiming it is normal for governing parties to receive electoral knocks mid-term. Be that as it may, Johnson was elected to refresh the party and having gained a strong majority in 2019, it should have been onwards and upwards for the Tories. But Boris has become such an embarrassment that he wasn’t featured in election literature and only held private meetings on his only visit to the constituency. Nevertheless, when Johnson was asked by journalists is he would resign if the Conservatives lost both seats, he responded: “Are you crazy?” But ultimately, Boris Johnson may not control his own destiny.

Tiverton and Honiton

2019. The 2019 General Election saw a swing of 3.3 per cent towards the Conservatives. The Tories received 60.2 per cent of the vote (35,893 votes), followed by Labour on 19.5 per cent (11,654) and the Liberal Democrats on 14.8 per cent (8,807).

Brexit. Voters in Tiverton and Honiton backed Brexit in June 2016, with 57.8 per cent voting to Leave compared to 42.2 per cent for Remain.

* 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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30 Comments

  • What a spectacular result.
    Congratulations to all involved. And the icing on the cake a bigger majority than the Labour one in Wakefield. June 23 hasn’t been a date for Lib Dems to celebrate for a while. A bit less painful now.

  • Andrew Toye 24th Jun '22 - 4:46am

    Whenever there is a landslide on the Jurassic Coast, collectors scour the beaches for newly uncovered fossils. This morning, they’ll be picking over the skeletal remains of the Conservative Party! Congratulations to Richard Foord and the team!

  • E Mercer Banks 24th Jun '22 - 5:55am

    So very many congratulations to all who helped with this decisive victory

  • David Evans 24th Jun '22 - 6:58am

    A truly excellent result that vindicates all the effort so many of us made to get down there and help. We all know Boris Johnson’s behaviour has disgraced our country for too long. However it was not unexpected given his strained relationship with the truth and his past record in journalism, politics and personal relationships..

    We now need to build on this result and use it to reinforce the message that the Conservatives all knew what a piece Boris Johnson was when they elected him and any party that could select him as leader basically is not fit to be involved in British politics ever again.

    If we don’t, the Conservatives will replace him with a new totally different face, just as they did to Margaret Thatcher with John Major, in the expectation that lots of the poison will leave with him, After that, their friends in the Murdoch press will do a rapid whitewash job for them, spreading the same messages that have so polarised our country since 2015 but with a new friendly face fronting it and then go into a new election spending the huge money they have to win once again.

    We have a real job to do, but we have the momentum and the ability to do it. Let’s start right now!

  • Yeovil Yokel 24th Jun '22 - 8:04am

    The headline in this morning’s BBC News website is apt: “Major blow for Tories…..”

  • Echo all the above! Amazing result.
    But not sure who the Tories can put forward as a replacement who be acceptable to the ERG wing AND traditional supporters. Isn’t it that that’s keeping Johnson in place?

  • Steve Trevethan 24th Jun '22 - 8:20am

    Might we also remember and thank the tactical voters of Tiverton and Honiton and of Wakefield?

  • Yeovil Yokel 24th Jun '22 - 8:30am

    Steve – Richard Foord thanked Labour supporters for lending him their vote in his victory speech this morning, and, if I recall correctly, both Sarah Green and Helen Morgan did so similarly.

  • John Marriott 24th Jun '22 - 8:47am

    Well done, the Lib Dems and the ‘Galloping Major’. If some believe that the electorate doesn’t do tactical voting they just need to look at the Lib Dem result in Wakefield. Now, can we PLEASE have more of it when it REALLY counts!

  • YY, the ongoing task is to ensure that the ‘loan’ becomes permanent.

    This result is a triumph for tactical voting and, for those on here who repeat the ‘Labour hate us more than the Tories’ line; this result (to the extent of a lost deposit) shows they don’t.

  • Mick Taylor 24th Jun '22 - 9:35am

    Cassie is spot on. No-one in the present cabinet would have any virtue apart from not being Boris Johnson. No-one outside the cabinet who might stand would be acceptable to both the ERG and the more sane Tory MPs. Of course they could pick a nonentity (a bit like Ian Duncan-Smith) but would that save them. I don’t see a potential John Major amongst the current bunch of Tory MPs.

  • Graham Jeffs 24th Jun '22 - 9:43am

    David Evans highlights the key issue going forward in terms of strategy.

    I know we made many policy points during this election, but it is critically important that we don’t leave the electorate with the impression that it’s ‘job done’ if Johnson were to go.

    Can we have some reassurance that this is understood and shall be acted upon?

  • Chris Moore 24th Jun '22 - 9:58am

    Hello, expats,

    It’s some Labour activists who are absurdly anti-LD.

    Labour voters clearly think otherwise.

  • Tristan Ward 24th Jun '22 - 10:32am

    @Chirs Moore.

    I won’t necessarily go far as hate, but they are Democratic Socialists, an we are Liberal Democrats.

    Each thinks society should work in different ways, though there may be ways in which they parties can cooperate, to form an administration just as there were ways in 2010-15.

  • Yes, co-operation should be eminently possible.

    Anyone who’s been involved in campaigning against incumbent Labour councils and MPs will have experienced the worst of Labour activist irrationality. In many of those areas, they do believe they have a God-given right.

  • Neil Hickman 24th Jun '22 - 11:21am

    I live a long way from Tiverton, but the donation feels like money very well spent. Congratulations to all.
    Our thanks should also go to Oliver Dowden, who in the first memorable action of his career turned a disaster into a catastrophe for his party in a most gratifying manner.
    As to Labour activists’ hatred of Lib Dems – The enmity goes back an awfully long way. Henry Slesser, a Labour Solicitor-General in the 1920s and later an appeal judge, wrote in his memoirs that he was surprised Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour Party in 1924 didn’t agree a programme of reform with the Liberals, rather than cosying up to the Tories. But they were never going to do that, because MacDonald himself had lost his seat in Leicester in 1918 largely as a result of a furious personal onslaught from the prominent Liberal Gordon Hewart.
    Don’t take it to heart. I was a member of the Labour Party for a while, resigning from the party when Starmer whipped his MPs to vote for Johnson’s lamentable “deal”. And after I resigned, I also resigned from a Facebook group for Labour supporters. I realised a few days later that not reading a daily diet of bile and spite directed at supposed political allies was lifting my spirits considerably. Labour on Lib Dem is tiresome; but believe me, Labour on Labour is sometimes even worse.

  • Chris Moore 24th Jun ’22 – 9:58am…Hello, expats, …It’s some Labour activists who are absurdly anti-LD…..

    CM, and vice versa. However, it was Labour activists in T&H who were asking Labour voters to vote for us..

    I looked, very early this morning on to ‘ Mail on Line’ for their ‘spin’; my favourite posting was….”I love it when there is a main story The Mail find impossible to twist and distort..”

    The most telling words in Dowden’s resignation letter**” Somebody must take responsibility”..In my mind this marks the end for Johnson; he’s a dead man walking…

    He won’t go easily (nor willingly) Tory heartland MPs are trying and pass off Tiverton and Honiton as a ‘one-off protest’ but the fact remains (no pun intended) that a solid ‘Leave’ area, that is T&H, voted overwhelmingly for a ‘Remain’ party. Tory MP’s (especially red-wall MP’s) have already played their ‘Brexit’ (get out of jail) card and will be worrying about THEIR future job prospects.

    They’ll be another no-confidence vote along soon

    ** I give Dowden no credit for his resignation; just a couple of weeks ago he was praising Johnson to the skies with, “Boris got all the big calls right in telling times, etc., etc.”..Dowden is just a little more astute than other cabinet colleagues; he reckons ‘the first rat off’ will stand the best chance of promotion in the post Johnson era.

  • @ John Marriott Good to see you’re still in fine fettle, matey.

  • Peter Watson 24th Jun '22 - 1:49pm

    @Mick Taylor “No-one in the present cabinet would have any virtue apart from not being Boris Johnson. … Of course they could pick a nonentity (a bit like Ian Duncan-Smith) but would that save them.”
    I would not expect Johnson’s replacement to want to be there long enough to risk becoming better known before a General Election! And then, critically, what might save the Tories is the difficulty in differentiating (in England) between three parties campaigning on that same platform! 😉

  • Joseph Bourke 24th Jun '22 - 2:05pm

    Congratulations to Major Ford and his team of activists on a historic victory.

  • Peter Watson 24th Jun '22 - 2:27pm

    By my reckoning, totting up the votes for both by-elections (numbers from Wikipedia), we have the Tories “winning” with 24634 votes, followed by Lib Dems with 23045, and Labour with 14728!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Jun '22 - 3:11pm

    This is proof we can have a real, centre ground party and win. Emphasise a few radical, policies that help people nationally . Emphasise a number of moderate ones that are popular locally. And listen to the concerns of voters.

    Nothing wrong with being in the centre ground with a good leadership and candidate.

  • David Evans 24th Jun '22 - 4:53pm

    It’s easy to portray this result as being down to “Tactical voters” with the implication that many will not vote Lib Dem in future. However, we have to remember that Tiverton and Honiton and prior to that Tiverton has always had a strong rural liberal vote. Naturally self-reliant with a can do attitude “The government do things and my team find a way to get through, over or round it” was an expression that summed up their approach when we canvassed them around Cullompton – coupled with a strong sense of responsibility to their local community (not just the community of people like them) makes them clearly liberal an real link to persuade them that Liberal Democracy is their natural home.

    They aren’t modern conservatives, but old school Liberals, pure and simple.

    We need to get them on board.

  • Alex Macfie 25th Jun '22 - 9:49am

    @Peter Watson: Actually a replacement for Johnson would do better if they have time to establish a profile, especially if they had served in Johnson’s government. Compare and contrast John Major, who by the 1992 General Election had a year and a half to make his own mark as PM escaping the shadow of his predecessor, with Canadian PM Kim Campbell, who had only a few months in the role after Mulroney before leading her Conservatives to a disastrous GE result, winning just 2 seats.
    A new leader’s poltical honeymoon bounce is probably too short and fragile to survive a GE campaign. It could only possibly work if the new leader were a previous Backbencher, someone like Tom Tugendhat or Tobias Ellwood.

  • Cassie and Nick, maybe Oliver Dowden is thinking of standing.

  • Cassie 24th Jun ’22 – 8:20am:
    But not sure who the Tories can put forward as a replacement who be acceptable to the ERG wing AND traditional supporters.

    Mick Taylor 24th Jun ’22 – 9:35am:
    No-one outside the cabinet who might stand would be acceptable to both the ERG and the more sane Tory MPs.

    Ex-cabinet members Penny Mordaunt and Lord Frost would meet all those criteria.

  • Nigel Bliss 25th Jun '22 - 6:04pm

    I have two fears:

    1) that Bojo will actually be forced out, which would be a pity as he’s such an electoral asset to the opposition parties! and,

    2) that every seat starts to believe it’s winnable and we lose the power to properly target out resources effectively.

  • Nonconformistradical 25th Jun '22 - 6:51pm

    I share Nigel Bliss’s concerns

  • Mordaunt and Frost are both ardent Brexiteers. Well, Frost is these days, he was pro-EU. and then negotiated a deal he later thought was rubbish, and then he quit and left others to sort it out.
    Not sure those are great credentials!

  • …also, wouldn’t he have to be an MP?
    Mordaunt maybe, but she’d need to up her public profile. A lot.

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