The stunning Liberal Democrat victory in Tiverton and Honiton will go down in political history. This was one of the safest Conservative seats in the country, with a whopping 24,000 majority. The leading pollster Chris Curtis said it would take a “miracle” for us to win there. In fact, the last time parts of the constituency were represented by a non-Conservative MP was two years before Queen Victoria was on the throne.
But we didn’t just clinch it. Our candidate, Richard Foord, romped home with a historic swing of 29.9 per cent, as voters across the constituency rallied behind the Liberal Democrats and expressed their disgust with Boris Johnson’s uncaring Conservative government. This by-election was about many things: soaring ambulance waiting times, people struggling to get an appointment with their GP and farmers being sold out in unfair trade deals. Most of all it was about rural communities fed up of being taken for granted by Johnson and his party.
I spoke to hundreds of voters over the past few weeks as I campaigned alongside Richard in the towns and villages of this beautiful part of Devon. Whether they were lifelong Conservative voters or traditional Labour supporters, the majority were united in their anger against the Prime Minister and the rotten government he leads. It’s not just the endless lies and the repeated breaches of the very rules he asked us all to follow during lockdown. It’s the complete chaos and lack of direction, as the country lurches from one crisis to another.
People are hugely worried about soaring bills, overstretched NHS services and underfunded schools. There is a general sense that under this neglectful and incompetent government, the concerns of local communities are being ignored and our great country is being allowed to stagnate. Time and again, Johnson and his ministers have shown they are more interested in chasing headlines and stoking culture wars than tackling the deep-rooted problems we face.
The Conservatives will try to dismiss this as typical midterm blues. Just like when we won Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire, they will claim this was just a flash in the pan. But these excuses are starting to wear thin, and the warning lights are becoming impossible for Conservative MPs to ignore. This result should surely be a wake-up call for all those Tory MPs still propping up their leader. If the Liberal Democrats can win in a Conservative seat as safe as this, we can win in dozens of far more marginal ones.
If Conservative MPs refuse to listen to the resounding message from the British people and do not get rid of this lying and law-breaking Prime Minister now, then the Liberal Democrats will get rid of him at the next election. It’s clear that in many parts of the country, the choice at the next election will be between the Conservatives or a Liberal Democrat MP standing up for their community. We have shown that even in the bluest of blue seats, a yellow tide is coming in that threatens to sweep Johnson and his government out of office.