TV chef Hugh says sorry for his by-election vote

TV chef and environment campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has apologised to the Green Party for voting Liberal Democrat in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election. The chef runs his River Cottage food and farming operation, featured in a popular Channel 4 series, from an organic smallholding near Axminster, in East Devon.

Edward Oldfield www.devonlive.com 

He revealed his vote in Thursday’s by-election a series of tweets, complaining about the “unfair” election system. He said it was the only way to “unseat the Tories”. He explained: “I’m voting in the Honiton and Tiverton by-election today. And I’m afraid I’m going to break a pledge I made a year ago, when I joined the Green Party. I said I was fed up of voting tactically and made a commitment to vote Green at every opportunity.

“I simply wanted my green vote to be counted, even when I knew I couldn’t really make it count. A system where one million General Election votes gets the Tories 20 MPs but the Greens only 1 is a grossly unfair system.

“So unfair that there are times when the opportunity to “game it to change it” becomes almost impossible to resist. Today I have such an opportunity, a chance to cast a vote that might actually have an impact on that system.

“It’s going to be very tight, but if we can unseat the Tories here today we can, in a small but not insignificant way, shift the dial towards a progressive alliance and perhaps ultimately a more representative democracy.

“And so, with apologies to my friends in the Green Party, of which I remain proud to be a member, today I will be voting for the Lib Dems. I will not feel as good or as honest as I would voting green. But in a contest that could well go to the wire, I feel it’s what I have to do.”

Eight candidates are standing for election in the Tiverton and Honiton constituency after Conservative MP Neil Parish resigned for watching pornography on his phone in the House of Commons. The Conservatives are defending a majority of more than 24,000 from the 2019 General Election, with the main challenge coming from the Liberal Democrats who believe they can take the seat.

Pollsters suggest the Liberal Democrats have the best chance of taking the seat from the Tories, after recent by-election successes in North Shropshire and Chesham and Amersham in Buckinghamshire. The Tiverton and Honiton vote is on the same day as a by-election in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, following the resignation of the Conservative MP after a conviction for sexual assault. Labour are poised to regain the seat, which they lost in 2019.

The Tiverton and Honiton Conservative candidate Helen Hurford, a head teacher turned beauty salon owner, says she is the only one who can work with the Tory government to deliver improvements. The main challenger, Liberal Democrat Richard Foord, a former Army major who served in Kosovo and Iraq, says the Conservatives have taken for granted what they see as a safe seat.

The by-elections are also being seen as a test of the prime minister’s popularity and the government’s record following the Downing Street parties and the cost of living crisis. The latest polling for the Liberal Democrats in Tiverton and Honiton suggested they and the Conservatives were neck-and-neck on 45 per cent each.

The Tiverton AND Honiton seat has been held by the Tories since its creation in 1997. MP Neil Parish won a majority of 24,239 in 2019. Polling stations for the by-elections in Wakefield in West Yorkshire and Tiverton and Honiton will be open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday, with the results expected between 4am and 6am on Friday.