‘Boris Johnson thinks he’s honest’: Devon candidate declines to say if PM trustworthy

“I will be giving my loyalty to somebody who has been given a third mandate by the party. This has happened. We need to move on.”

Questioned a second time if Johnson was fundamentally honest, she replied: “I think Boris thinks that he is an honest person. How I conduct myself is how I conduct myself, and I think you are trying to catch me out here.”

A vote for Helen Hurford is a vote for Boris – Owl

Peter Walker www.theguardian.com 

The Conservative candidate in Tiverton and Honiton has blamed the media for preventing the public from “moving on” from Partygate and twice declined to say that Boris Johnson was honest.

In an interview with the Guardian, Helen Hurford acknowledged the party faced a very tight battle to retain the previously ultra-safe seat and criticised what she called the media’s “persistent regurgitating of Partygate”. Asked if she believed Boris Johnson was fundamentally honest, Hurford twice refused to say.

Hurford, a former headteacher and a Honiton town councillor who now runs a beauty training business, is defending a 24,000-plus majority won in 2019 by the MP Neil Parish, who resigned in April after admitting he had watched pornography on his phone in the Commons chamber.

But the byelection on 23 June, which comes on the same day the Tories defend another seat in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, is widely seen as an ultra-close race between Hurford and the Liberal Democrat candidate, Richard Foord.

Internal polling by the Lib Dems of those intending to vote on the day of the byelection, released on Wednesday, put the Conservatives on 46% and the Lib Dems on 44%.

“I think it’s going to be very tight, and we can’t take anything for granted whatsoever,” Hurford said. “It could come down to very small numbers.”

Asked why a seat that has been Conservative-held in its various geographical variations for well over a century was now under threat, Hurford said issues raised by voters included the cost of living and “what happened with Neil Parish”.

She added: “And thirdly, the media’s persistent regurgitating of Partygate – even though there has been a line drawn in the sand, and there has been a report, it is constantly in the news, and people aren’t allowed to move on from it.”

“So, of course, that’s impacting. That is what I’m hearing on doorsteps as well – people are sick and tired of seeing it. They are sick and tired of hearing it. They want to talk about what’s important.”

Asked if this meant the media were in part to blame for the Tories’ struggles in the seat, Hurford said: “It’s not necessarily the media’s fault, but I think it’s time to stop. There needs to be a change of narrative about what is important.”

Hurford said she did understand voters’ worries about trust as a result of the Downing Street parties, adding: “All I can say is that the byelection is to pick a representative for Tiverton and Honiton, your next MP. As a former headteacher I am very trustworthy. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it. This is what is important – the person who is going to be representing you in Westminster.”

Asked if Johnson was equally trustworthy, she declined to answer directly, saying: “I will be giving my loyalty to somebody who has been given a third mandate by the party. This has happened. We need to move on.”

Questioned a second time if Johnson was fundamentally honest, she replied: “I think Boris thinks that he is an honest person. How I conduct myself is how I conduct myself, and I think you are trying to catch me out here.”

Asked, finally, if she was comfortable going into a parliamentary party led by Johnson, she replied: “I’m comfortable representing Tiverton and Honiton as their MP with the Conservatives, with a prime minister who has once again, for the third time, been shown support by the majority of the party. That is what I will be going for. Everything else has happened. I’m looking forwards to the future.

“I don’t want to play party politics. I don’t want to be drawn into things that have happened. I want to be talking about what I can deliver for Tiverton and Honiton.”

Lib Dem Foord calls for change

Tories have held Tiverton & Honiton forever.

Liberal Democrat candidate Richard Foord has set out his stall ahead of next week’s Tiverton and Honiton by-election, claiming it’s “time for change.”

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

The 44-year-old is bidding to end Conservative domination of the seat since it was created in 1997 but faces having to overturn a majority of more than 24,000 secured by disgraced former MP Neil Parish in 2019.

Both parties are campaigning hard in Devon, where defeat for the government on 23 June would be seen as a big blow to Boris Johnson’s leadership. No other party has represented this area at Westminster – both before and after boundary changes – since 1924.

Mr Foord, a former army major who now works for Oxford University from his home in Mid Devon, says such a single party domination can “breed apathy.”

“Honestly the feedback I’m getting is [that this is] a by-election and is about choosing our MP rather than necessarily choosing the government, we can do differently this time,” he said.

“That’s the message that I’m getting back, and I would just reinforce the point that, yes, we’ve been neglected and taken for granted for so long that it is indeed time for change.”

The Lib Dems point to high ambulance waiting times, problems with funding a new town centre relief road in Cullompton and the lack of a new high school in Tiverton as just a few examples.

The Conservatives reject claims about underfunding, which have also been made by Labour candidate Liz Pole. It says their government is “delivering for people in Tiverton and Honiton and across the whole south west.”

In addition to cash towards transport improvements, the party claims £77 million has been spent supporting people in Devon during covid, protecting 17,000 jobs in Tiverton and Honiton through the furlough scheme and by providing loans to local businesses.

Tory candidate Helen Hurford, who has also backed the new relief road and upgraded high school, last week said she was only one who could work directly with the government and was “focused solely on delivering” for the area.

But Mr Foord, speaking in Honiton, suggests it’s time for a shake-up: “I don’t think that we have seen very much interest paid by the government in our area while we’ve consistently returned Conservative politicians to parliament.

“And this this kind of complacency is apparent when you knock on doors around here. People say to you, ‘well, it’s fantastic that you’ve called because we haven’t had a Conservative politician knock on our door for decades.’”

He is aiming to become the first Lib Dem MP in Devon since Sarah Wollaston, who defected from the Tories in 2019 to the short-lived Change UK and subsequently the Lib Dems.

Mr Foord’s campaign is focussing on action to tackle the cost of living, including a VAT cut from 20 to 17.5 per cent, cutting waiting times for GPs and ambulances and getting a ‘fairer deal’ for Devon farmers.

Eight candidates – including from each of the main parties – are vying for the Tiverton and Honiton seat:

  • Jordan Donoghue-Morgan – Heritage Party
  • Andy Foan – Reform UK
  • Richard Foord – Liberal Democrats
  • Helen Hurford – Conservative
  • Liz Pole – Labour
  • Frankie Rufolo – The For Britain Movement
  • Ben Walker – UK Independence Party
  • Gill Westcott – Green Party

Lord Geidt’s resignation letter  – a roar or a squeak?

Lord Geidt’s resignation letter and the Prime Minister’s reply were published yesterday. Does this provide the clarity we all hoped for? – Owl

Here is an extract from Paul Waugh’s view from inews:

……Some Tory MPs may view Geidt as the mouse that finally roared. But others will see his letter as a squeak, and allow the PM to carry on regardless.

Timing in politics is also everything. If Geidt had quit in the wake of the full Sue Gray report, it would have had much more impact on Tory MPs and their confidence vote.

He ends up seeming more furious about trade tariffs than about Partygate itself. Why didn’t he say Covid rule-breaking had put him in “an odious position”? Why hadn’t the PM’s misleading Parliament “made a mockery” of the principles of public life?

Appearing to expend more anger about obscure trade rules (for which the Government will get popular support) than lockdown law-breaking only confirmed the image of a man who has spent so long in the thicket of the Establishment that he can’t see the wood for the trees. After his humiliation by MPs, Geidt may have been looking for any excuse to quit, but this excuse just wasn’t that great.

In the end, his resignation seemed to be more about protecting his own damaged reputation than doing anything to seriously question that of the PM’s. That’s why Johnson may well escape the opprobrium once more.

And the final insult was yet to come. No.10 hinted the independent ministerial adviser may not even be replaced and the role handed to a civil servant. Perhaps the most damning indictment of Geidt’s record would be if no one notices he’s actually gone.

GP contracts to be changed to get more seeing patients face to face, under Sajid Javid proposals…

“Incentivising contracts”? What happened to the concept of “professionalism”? – Owl

SAJID Javid is eyeing up major changes to GP contracts to get more doctors to see patients face to face.

Kate Ferguson www.thesun.co.uk

He wants to end the shameful postcode lottery which leaves millions of Brits unable to get an appointment not on Zoom.

Vast parts of the country have a massive shortage of full-time GPs – fuelling the problem.

The Health Secretary is considering a range of reforms to try to end the scandal.

One option is to change GP contracts so they are “incentivised” to go from working part time to full time.

While they could also be offered lucrative bungs to move to left-behind areas.

And a big focus will also be put on getting GPs to offer more face to face appointments.

A Government source said the aim is to give patients “more choice” so elderly patients are not forced to go online when they really want to physically see a doctor.

But the number of face to face appointments “is expected to increase”.

Whitehall insiders insisted that changing GP contracts is just one of the options being looked at.

With No10 already bracing for a “summer of discontent” from militant rail unions, they do not want to have a row with doctors unions too.

So they are expected to try to lure GPs into increasing their hours and being more flexible rather than ordering them to.

THE CRISIS CAUSED BY THE GOVERNMENT’S POLICY OF CLOSING NHS COMMUNITY HOSPITAL BEDS  

(And their zealous local Tory acolytes)

Lest we forget – Owl

From a correspondent:

Yet another report has revealed that patients are suffering because of delays in ambulances being able to discharge them into hospital beds. This means long delays when awaiting an ambulance: the very sick and injured, in category two, now have to wait for an average of more than 40 minutes. The target is 18 minutes. Quite simply, there are too few available beds and one reason for this is that at least 10 per cent of patients are “bed blocking”. They do not have access to “care packages” so cannot leave hospital. In many instances, the percentage is higher and in Gloucestershire  it is 29 per cent. With many others in East Devon,  I campaigned vigorously to defeat the government’s plan to remove dozens of beds in local and modern community hospitals. We failed: the consequences are painfully evident. Doubtless, this grim situation will be blamed on Covid but England has cut the total number of NHS beds from nearly 300,000 in 1987 to 141,000 in 2019, despite an increase in population from 47.3 million to 56.6 million with the elderly accounting for a higher share. The UK has fewer beds per thousand of population than most comparable countries in Western Europe. Many of us, even before Covid, warned that this grim situation could occur because of the government’s policy but we were ignored and damaging closures, especially in East Devon, were implemented.