The Conservatives have suffered the biggest by-election defeat in British history after the Liberal Democrats overturned a 24,239 majority to win Tiverton and Honiton, a seat held by the Tories since its creation in 1997. The previous record was held by Labour, which overturned a 23,927 Tory majority at the 1935 by-election in Liverpool Wavertree.
The Tiverton and Honiton by-election was triggered by the resignation of Neil Parish, the seat’s Conservative MP, after he admitted watching pornography in the House of Commons. It marks the third safe Conservative seat the Liberal Democrats have won in this parliament, following North Shropshire (where the Tories had a majority of 22,949) and Chesham and Amersham (a majority of 16,223).
Oliver Dowden, the Conservative Party co-chairman, resigned shortly after the results were declared, telling the Prime Minister in a letter that “somebody needs to take responsibility” and that “we cannot continue with business as usual”. But Boris Johnson, speaking from Rwanda, where he is attending the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, said that while he took responsibility for the results, he would “keep going” and “listen” to voters.
“The people of Tiverton and Honiton have spoken for Britain,” said Richard Foord, its new Liberal Democrat MP. “They have sent a loud and clear message that it’s time for Boris Johnson to go.”
The Tories also suffered another by-election defeat in Wakefield last night, with Labour regaining the Red Wall seat with a majority of 4,921.