The Conservative candidate in the Tiverton & Honiton by-election was jeered and heckled by an angry crowd last night [Thursday] as she tried to dodge questions on Boris Johnson’s integrity.
YouTube video below – Owl
George Grylls www.thetimes.co.uk
Helen Hurford, the owner of a beauty salon, was met with hostility at the only hustings held before the ballot next Thursday.
The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Neil Parish, the Tory MP who was forced to stand down after he admitted to watching porn in the House of Commons.
The Liberal Democrats are hoping to overturn a huge Tory majority of 24,239 and deliver another blow to Johnson after the prime minister narrowly survived a vote of no confidence last week.
The party secured by-election upsets last year in the traditionally Conservative safe seats of Chesham & Amersham and North Shropshire.
At the hustings, which took place in Tiverton High School, Hurford was asked what she made of the resignation of Lord Geidt, who stood down as the prime minister’s adviser on ministerial standards on Wednesday.
“In light of the resignations of two ethics advisers in less than two years, what is your personal view on the moral character of Boris Johnson?” a member of the audience asked.
Hurford said that Johnson was “honest in relation to the pledges he makes”, but did not give her own view on his moral character.
As she tried to list the government’s achievements in rolling out the coronavirus vaccine and providing military support to Ukraine, her response was increasingly drowned out by angry cries of “shame” and “answer the question”.
“It is very easy to stand on the sidelines and attack and be aggressive,” Hurford retorted. “What I am hearing on the doorsteps is people are fed up of it. They are sick to death of it. And what they want to hear is how we are going to support them with the cost of living which is affecting us all.”
Pressed about whether she had any concerns about Johnson’s character, Hurford said: “I have no concerns that his pledges are honest.” Her answer was greeted with boos and jeers.
Johnson visited Tiverton & Honiton last week, where he held a private meeting with Hurford and a group of farmers.
The Conservatives have stepped up their campaign with Michael Gove, the housing secretary, and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, among those to go canvassing in east Devon.