Defeated Tory ‘hides’ from media after election defeat

See video on DevonLive link

Lewis Clarke

After a historic and humiliating defeat in the Tiverton & Honiton by-election, Conservative candidate Helen Hurford disappeared via a back door. Video shows the moment she arrived smiling at the count just before the results were announced before slipping away from public gaze.

Accompanied by Tory party officials, she arrived at the count before hiding away in a back room. When approached by DevonLive reporter Lewis Clarke her agent says “We are not speaking” and ushers Mr Hurford away. She simply smiles and says “Oh have they” after being told that the Liberal Democrats have just declared a spectacular win, as the votes stacked in their favour and the 24,000 Tory majority is slashed, with a 30 per cent swing to the Lib Dems.

Ms Hurford and her supporters remained in the back room until the results were announced , with the Liberal Democrats winning 22,537 votes, and the Tories in second place on 16,393. After her ignominious defeat she hastily left the building without any public statement or comment to the press.

The contest triggered by the resignation of disgraced Tory MP Neil Parish offered voters the chance to give their verdict on Prime Minister Boris Johnson just weeks after 41 per cent of his own MPs cast their ballots against him.

Today Oliver Dowden has resigned as chairman of the Conservative Party saying in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson that “someone must take responsibility” for defeats at Tiverton and Honiton in Devon and Wakefield in Yorkshire which was won by Labour.

Devon’s new Lib Dem MP Richard Foord used his acceptance speech to call for Mr Johnson “to go, and go now”, claiming his victory had “sent a shockwave through British politics”.

Tiverton and Honiton election: East Devon District Council leader’s reaction to new MP Richard Foord

East Devon District Council’s leader Councillor Paul Arnott has congratulated Tiverton and Honiton’s new MP – Richard Foord. 

East Devon District Council’s leader, Councillor Paul Arnott said:

“Huge congratulations to Richard Foord for a brilliant campaign run with truth, passion and courtesy. We look forward enormously to a brilliant and effective working relationship with EDDC, where the Democratic Alliance, including the LibDems, is now in a third year of control.

“The Tories were ejected from East Devon after 45 years of running the council in 2019. And now with tonight’s results, it was not just a negative vote against Mr Johnson, it is a historic win for the majority of people who live in this amazing place.

“Richard and I will now meet on Friday to discuss how we will work together with immediate effect for the public good.”


With the writing on the wall, the Tory candidate barricaded herself in a room to avoid the cameras

Helen Hurford’s disappearing act at Tiverton and Honiton by-election will likely prove the most memorable moment of a lacklustre campaign

By Nick Gutteridge, Political Correspondent and Will Bolton Extract

“She’s locked herself in a room!” Astonishment rippled through the assembled press pack as, barricaded in a dance studio, Helen Hurford, the Tory candidate in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election, prepared to hear her fate.

Her early morning disappearing act at a leisure centre in southern Devon will likely prove to be the most memorable moment of a Conservative campaign that failed to spark into life.

Comparisons will inevitably be drawn with the famous occasion when, during the 2019 general election battle, Boris Johnson hid in a fridge to escape from the television cameras. 

Indeed, the Prime Minister dominated the Tiverton and Honiton by-election, just not in a way that Ms Hurford or the Tories would have wished. 

In a terrible night for the Tories, they lost a huge majority in Tiverton and Honiton and surrendered Wakefield to Labour.

The Conservative candidate and her supporters in Tiverton seemed shell-shocked by the result, which saw the party surrender a record 24,239 majority to the Liberal Democrats. 

She arrived at the Lords Meadow leisure centre in Crediton just before 3.30am, bolting past the assembled reporters towards a safe haven. 

Her team directed her towards a dance studio next to the main counting hall which, ironically, had been set aside for media interviews with the candidates. 

For the next 25 minutes they refused to let anybody in as a bigger and bigger media scrum assembled outside until, with the result imminent, she had to make a dash for it. 

Ms Hurford ducked a volley of questions about her defeat and the role of the Prime Minister and dashed next door to hear her fate confirmed. 

But there was one final indignity for the Conservative candidate, which came when she stumbled while filing towards the stage for the reading out of the results……

Winning the next general election just became much harder for Tories

Mr Johnson’s problem is not simply that his party has lost support. Rather, many opposition voters are now seemingly willing to vote for whichever candidate seems best able to defeat the Conservatives locally. And if that continues, winning the next general election could begin to look a lot more difficult.

John Curtice 

The results in Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton do not make easy reading for the Conservatives.

The 12.7 per cent swing from Conservative to Labour in Wakefield would, if replicated everywhere, be enough to deliver a Labour overall majority.

Meanwhile, as many as 333 Tory MPs could lose their seat if they suffered the 29.9 per cent swing from Conservative to Liberal Democrat registered in Tiverton & Honiton.

However, by-elections provide an exaggerated picture of a government’s mid-term electoral problems. The swings registered in the two by-elections would not necessarily have occurred in a general election on Thursday. To assess the significance of the results we should compare them with past by-elections rather than extrapolate them to a general election.

By that standard, Labour’s performance in Wakefield was creditable. The swing to the party from the Conservatives is the highest recorded so far in any by-election in this parliament, as is the 8.1 point increase in Labour’s own share of the vote.

However, the swing is no higher than that recorded when Labour last made a by-election gain in Corby ten years ago, and is somewhat less than the 13.6 per cent swing recorded the same year when the party successfully defended Middlesborough.

Indeed, there were no less than ten by-elections in the 2010-15 parliament when Labour’s share of the vote rose by more than it did on Thursday – yet the party still lost in 2015.

In short, Wakefield provides less than decisive evidence of a new enthusiasm for Labour. Indeed, it is striking that the 17.3 point fall in the Conservative tally was more than twice the 8.1 point increase in Labour support.

Much of the damage to the Conservatives appears to have been done by a former local Tory councillor who stood as an Independent after calling for Boris Johnson to resign and won as much as 7.6 per cent of the vote.

The Liberal Democrats certainly have reason to be cock-a-hoop about their success in Tiverton & Honiton. The 38.1 point increase in their share of the vote was slightly above the equivalent figure of 37.2 points in North Shropshire in December. Indeed, it represented the third biggest ever rise in the party’s support in a previously Conservative held seat.

Yet the 21.7 point fall in Conservative support in Tiverton was only a little higher than in Wakefield and was well down on the 31.1 point fall the party suffered in North Shropshire. Indeed, there are no less than 19 previous post-war by-elections where the Conservative fell more heavily in a seat the party was attempting to defend.

Bad though Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton might be for the Conservatives, the results suggest that at least the party’s electoral plight may be no worse now than it was a few months ago at the height of the ‘partygate’ row.

However, there is a very significant fly in the Conservative ointment.

The 14.4 point Liberal Democrat majority over the Conservatives was a little less than the sharp 15.8 point drop in Labour’s share of the vote. While not all those who defected from Labour will have switched to the Liberal Democrats, it is highly likely that many did so, and their decision may have been crucial to the Liberal Democrat victory. Meanwhile, more than half the already diminutive Liberal Democrat vote in Wakefield fell away too.

Mr Johnson’s problem is not simply that his party has lost support. Rather, many opposition voters are now seemingly willing to vote for whichever candidate seems best able to defeat the Conservatives locally. And if that continues, winning the next general election could begin to look a lot more difficult.

Sir John Curtice is a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde and senior research fellow, NatCen Social Research and The UK in a Changing Europe.

‘Devolved Devon’ drive brings 11 councils together

The boss of Devon County Council has outlined the case for a devolution deal from the government, with Torbay part of the arrangement. Devon is one of nine areas given provisional backing to make more decisions locally. When finalised, it is hoped councils will be given extra powers.

Ollie Heptinstall

Talks with Whitehall departments are now under way, the county council’s chief executive Dr Phil Norrey revealed on Monday. The council is working with fellow unitary authorities Plymouth and Torbay on the deal, together with Devon’s eight district councils.

Speaking to Today on BBC Radio 4, Dr Norrey said decisions on how government money should be spent are better made locally. “We’ve got a better idea of what matters to local people and where we’re going to have the biggest impact,” he said.

“And the reality is that central government’s very compartmentalised and we have the opportunity to bring together the various agendas on the ground – linking up things like our response to climate change, housing, economy and skills, and transport.” Any major democratic reorganisation – such as having an elected mayor for Devon, or creating one overall council similar to Cornwall and Somerset – has already been ruled out.

Instead, a combined authority without a mayor may be set up. In February, Devon issued a statement saying this would “enable councils to work together strategically whilst respecting the sovereignty of their respective authorities.” Dr Norrey added they were speaking to the different branches of the government: “to see how far we can push our ambitions, and we are a very ambitious partnership across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay.”

It is possible that a deal for Devon could be finalised by the autumn.

Suspended Tory MP David Warburton Facing Probe By Parliament’s Sleaze Watchdog

Could there be a new by election coming up in Somerton and Frome? – Owl

Sophia Sleigh 

Suspended Tory MP David Warburton is under investigation by Parliament’s sleaze watchdog.

The Somerton and Frome MP had the Conservative whip withdrawn earlier this year after a series of allegations relating to sexual harassment and cocaine use.

On Wednesday, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards said they had launched an investigation into separate allegations surrounding possible breaches of Commons lobbying rules and the register of interests.

The commissioner’s website says the investigation is into “paid advocacy”, “declaration of an interest” and registration of an interest under a category relating to “gifts, benefits and hospitality” from UK sources.

Meanwhile, parliament’s harassment watchdog, the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, is probing claims made against Warburton by three women.

The Sunday Times also reported allegations that Warburton had taken cocaine and that he had failed to declare a £100,000 loan from a Russian businessman.

The married father-of-two previously denied the allegations, telling the Sunday Telegraph: “I have enormous amounts of defence, but unfortunately the way that things work means that doesn’t come out first.

“I have heard nothing whatsoever from the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme. I’m sorry, I can’t comment any further.”

More on Boris brand devalued by 60% in which the Swires get a mention

Owl recently recorded the fact that the “Boris brand” had devalued by 60% since he became Prime Minister. Now there iit appears there is more to the story including prophetic reference to a place called “Tiverton”

The dinner party from hell: Boris, Theresa and Dave

John Crace

Earlier this week, the Conservative party raised money by auctioning off the chance for a supporter to have supper with Boris Johnson, Theresa May and David Cameron.

John Crace earwigged one awkward conversation …

David Cameron: (Silence)

Boris Johnson: (Silence)

Theresa May: (Silence)

Cameron: Um …

Johnson: Er …

May: (Silence)

Donor: This is fun …

Cameron: Yes …

May: Is it?

Johnson: Shall we order some more wine?

May: Just try not to spill it this time.

Cameron: So what inspired you to pay £120k for dinner?

Donor: I was actually the underbidder. The woman who pledged the most said she’d pay almost anything not to have dinner with you. But since I’m here, I’d quite fancy a place in the Lords.

Johnson: Consider it done. Now when do I get my cut?

Donor: Sorry?

Johnson: The £60k for talking to you lot…

Cameron: I think you’ll find it was a donation to the Conservative party.

Johnson: Oh. I’d never have offered if I’d known.

Donor: But can I still have a peerage?

Johnson: Let’s talk later. In private.

Cameron: (Silence)

Johnson: (Silence)

May: (Silence)

Cameron: Tiverton is nice this time of year.

Johnson: Why are you bringing up Tiverton?

Cameron: No reason… Sam and I just happened to be driving through the area on the way to stay with Hugo and Sasha Swire. Do you know the Swires?

May: No.

Cameron: Hugo was a junior minister in the Foreign Office when you were home secretary …

May: (Silence)

Donor: So … how do you all think Brexit is going?

Cameron: (Silence)

May: (Silence)

Johnson: Marvellously. Never better. The UK is booming. Bozza Builds Back Better.

Cameron: As in the economy is taking a 4% hit to GDP during a cost of living crisis.

Johnson: Stop talking Britain down, Dave. Jacob Rees-Mogg is getting rid of a European law that would force the UK to have the same phone chargers as other EU countries. So now we’ll have to buy a different one whenever we go abroad. That’s what I mean when I say I’m “getting Brexit done”.

Cameron: Admit it, Boris. Being prime minister is a lot harder work than you expected …

Johnson: It’s certainly very badly paid. I’ve never been so broke in my life. I used to get £275k per year for churning out any old bobbins for the Telegraph. Now I actually have to do a full day’s work. And I only earn about £150k.

Cameron: Though you do have Lord Brownlow to pick up the tab for soft furnishings and other living expenses. By the way, well done for getting rid of Lord Geidt. He did rather hamper your style …

Johnson: Well, there’s no point in having an ethics adviser if you don’t have any ethics … Anyway, tell me. How much do you both pull in as former prime ministers?

Cameron: Well, most of the time life is fairly dull. I just sit in my shepherd’s hut waiting for the phone to ring. But it seldom does. No one really wants to hear what I’ve got to say about anything any more …

Donor: I know what you mean …

Cameron: Still, I did get £800k for my really boring memoir. You should get a lot more if you publish your diaries about how you stabbed me in the back …

Johnson: You’re not still bitter about that are you? It’s your own fault. If you hadn’t been so lazy and slapdash you’d never have lost the referendum. And besides, I betray everyone. That’s what I do. Just ask Marina and all the other women …

May: I’m earning a fortune.

Johnson: WTF?

Cameron: WTF?

May: I’m inundated with offers to give speeches …

Johnson: People pay you to speak?

May: Yes. Well over £100k for little more than 30 minutes …

Johnson: I’m amazed.

May: Yes, people are still interested in the Malthouse compromise

Cameron: I suppose it was no more idiotic than the Northern Ireland protocol. After all Boris went to all the trouble of negotiating a Brexit deal only to have to renege on his own treaty and is now having to renegotiate from scratch. Good luck with that.

Johnson: (Silence)

Cameron: (Silence)

May: (Silence)

Donor: So …

Cameron: So …

May: Geoffrey Boycott.

Cameron: What about him?

May: He was a great cricketer. I once saw him make 17 between lunch and tea in a Test against Pakistan at Lords.

Cameron: And?

May: And nothing. That was it. Geoffrey Boycott.

Donor: OK … Then how do you think you’ll all be remembered?

Cameron: I hope history will be kind. It’s not my fault I took my eye off the ball. Don’t forget I was prime minister for a lot longer than Theresa. And almost certainly Boris as well. Plus I did get a better degree at Oxford than Boris …

Johnson: That’s because you were a girly swot. I will definitely go down as one of the all time greats. The first prime minister who picked up a criminal record. If only Sue Gray and the Met had managed to find out what we really got up to in No 10! The prime minister who stoked division and failed to level up the country. The man who put a smile on refugee faces with his world-leading Rwanda plan …

May: Well I want it on record that I was a lot more popular than Boris. I won my no-confidence vote by a higher percentage of votes than he did.

Johnson: But I am going to hang on …

May: Not if I have anything to do with it.

Cameron: Now, now.

Johnson: (Silence)

May: (Silence)

Cameron: (Silence)

Johnson: As we’re here, I do have one last favour to ask. Carrie is finding it really hard to get a job. Preferably around £100k for a three-day week. Can any of you help her out?

May: Maybe that idiot Jonathan Gullis needs an unpaid intern …

Donor: Didn’t you ask for something similar for Jennifer Arcuri?

Cameron: Shall we give dessert a miss?

Donor: I rather wish we’d done the same with the main course …

Johnson: Can anyone lend me £20 for a cab? I seem to have come out without any money …

Cameron: (Silence)

Donor: (Silence)

May: (Silence)

Boris produces bubbles of nonsense when quizzed about Carrie

At PMQs on Wednesday

John Crace (Extract)

….First though, was a question from Labour’s Chris Elmore. Could Johnson confirm or deny whether he has ever tried to blag a job in government or the royal household for his girlfriend – now wife – Carrie Johnson? Bubbles of nonsense dribbled from the Convict’s mouth. What he had done is find lots of other people a job. Which must be why so many people are out of work. But no outright denial. Everyone was just amazed that he hadn’t lied.

So we can take that as a yes, then. After all, Johnson’s only interest in institutions and their safeguards is in how they can be twisted and corrupted to his ends. What is the point of going to all that trouble to become foreign secretary or prime minister if you’re not going to try to use your influence to find your lover a job?

Hell, he’d bought off his own brother with a peerage. He’d given Evgeny Lebedev a peerage. Even Evgeny’s friends have yet to work out if he exists in three dimensions. Mostly he resembles a bearded cardboard cutout. A billionaire without quality. And it’s rumoured he plans to elevate Paul Dacre to the Lords. So finding his latest lover a cushy number was a complete no-brainer. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be paid £100k for doing next to nothing in the Foreign Office if the only other job on offer was as a £10k cleaner in a care home?

With the Convict visibly rattled, Starmer pounced. The Tory candidate in the Wakefield byelection had been put to a vote of no confidence by his own party. Did that ring any bells? Maybe Johnson should consider himself as something of a trendsetter. Buy one, get one free. Maybe there was a run on useless people standing for office in the Conservatives. And was there a reason Boris hadn’t actually bothered to visit Wakefield? Had he decided that two crap people nobody wants, standing next to each other, wasn’t the best of looks?

“Pifflepafflewifflewaffle.” Johnson splurged, his face turning crimson with the exertion of trying to speak in intelligible sentences. “But what about the rail strikes?” Ah, glad you’ve mentioned them, said Starmer. He might have gone media-shy the previous day but he was now all ready for a conversation.

What on earth had the Convict and Grant Shapps been doing with themselves for the past few months? Had the transport secretary got stuck on holiday in Málaga again? Only two years ago he had had to cancel his hols before they had started as he hadn’t realised the government’s own health regulations had changed. How stupid do you need to be to become a cabinet minister these days?

Still Johnson and Shapps had both turned up at a Tory fundraiser at the V&A this week, where Johnson had found some sucker willing to pay £120k for dinner with him, Theresa May and David Cameron. Most sane rich people would pay more than that to get out of a dinner with that cast list. At least then you could escape without Boris trying to shag you. Presumably there were no takers for a day of Create Your Own Ponzi Scheme with Michael Green…….

Nobody should be allowed to grind public transport to a halt – Simon Jupp

(And nobody should be allowed to confuse facts with fiction – Owl)

Simon Jupp weighs in on the rail strike, following the party line, but he needs to pay attention to detail and up his game.

For example he says: “The government cannot support union demands for pay increases of 11%

This looks to Owl’s fact checker to be grossly misleading.

Sky news reports: Striking rail workers are asking for a 7% pay rise, despite CPI inflation at 9.1% and RPI at 11.7%. NHS workers and teachers have also threatened to walk out if the government doesn’t up their pay deals. (The Telegraph carries a similar report) 

And remember that the Treasury plans to return to the “triple lock” system, by which the state pension is increased annually in line with inflation (CPI), average earnings or a flat rate of 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest. The “triple lock” was suspended for 2022/23.

The next rise, which will take place in April 2023, will be based on the reading of the consumer price index (CPI) this coming September, when it is expected to reach 10 per cent.

Nobody should be allowed to grind public transport to a halt 

Simon Jupp

Many of us in East Devon use the railway regularly to get to school, work, or see friends and family. The railways also connect many of our rural communities with Exeter, including Lympstone, Whimple and Cranbrook. It’s a vital service for many, every day.

As readers will be aware, RMT union members are on strike this week in a dispute with Network Rail over their pay, staffing cuts and working conditions. I’m concerned by the potential for this large-scale industrial action to continue over the summer, disrupting vital services, NHS appointments, and GCSE exams.

There will be disruption to our recovering hospitality and tourism businesses in Exmouth, Topsham, and elsewhere, with people unable to reach hotels or honour restaurant reservations. In addition, the strikes could exasperate existing national trends of working from home, damaging productivity and high street businesses. This will also add extra unnecessary stress on to students who are due to take important exams this week, with schools already writing to parents worried about their children missing tests because they can’t get to school.

The government cannot support union demands for pay increases of 11%. As we know, there’s no such thing as government money – it’s your money. Despite £16 billion of emergency subsidy during the pandemic, the technological reforms necessary to make further funding sustainable are being blocked by militant unions.

One of these reforms is much talked about – the closure of ticket offices. As well as reducing staffing costs, this will allow station staff to be better placed on the platforms, directing travellers and assisting with any accessibility requirements. Because many people purchase their train tickets online and access them on their smart phone, it’s right the government is looking at ways to modernise the railway. Not everyone is on the internet or has access to a smart phone and those people must still be able to buy or collect their tickets from the station. Whilst systems should be modernised, the railways must remain accessible for everyone and I will be pushing the government on this.

The strike action is taking place on Tuesday 21 st , Thursday 24 th and Saturday 26 th June, with only a skeleton service on these days. The action has been designed for maximum disruption and the whole week will be severely impacted. We’re being particularly affected in the South West and I’m in frequent discussions with the railway companies, including GWR and SWR, on how they plan to mitigate the disruption for us here in East Devon.

On the strike days, GWR say they are running some services on the Devon mainline to Paddington but these are starting late and finish early. GWR expects these will be busy. GWR are not running services along the Avocet line between Exmouth and Exeter. SWR are not running services west of Basingstoke, also known as the West of England line. That means no trains between Exeter and Whimple, Cranbrook and Honiton.

The scheduling for the intervening days looks better with services across the network akin to typical Sundays. There is the potential for a slow start though, with trains and drivers starting the day in the wrong place to begin a normal service.

We’re experiencing a staggering level of disruption – triggered by the unreasonable demands of left-wing unions and supported by the Labour Party. It cannot happen again. I sit on the Transport Select Committee, and I will be pressing the case for legislation requiring minimum service levels on the railway network.

Whilst passenger numbers on the railways are doing well locally, they are still some way off pre-pandemic levels nationally. These strikes will have put some people off the railway for good. If we want to get more people to use public transport, we can’t let unions dictate when people can get to where they need to be. Nobody should be allowed to grind public transport to a halt.