Foord trying to be ‘local champion’

Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton, Richard Foord, insists he can hold onto the seat in the next general election by being a community champion.

Philip Churm, local democracy reporter

Foord, who won the Devon seat in June in Britain’s biggest ever by-election swing, made the comments in an interview as he met with Lib Dem leader, Ed Davey, in Honiton on Friday 4 November. 

In an interview with the Local Democracy Reporter Service, he explained why he felt he had already made an impact in his first few months as an MP. 

RF: “It’s been a furiously busy short time, actually. We’ve had on my first day in Parliament, I put together an early day motion pressuring the government to offer fuel duty relief for for my constituents, for people here in my part of Devon, because what we see is people in rural areas like this one needing to travel far more miles in their cars than is the case for people who live in urban areas.

“And in part of North Devon, there is a different fuel duty, a lower fuel duty levy, for people who live in very remote areas. And I would like to see that extended to all of Devon and other rural areas besides.”

LDRS: “It could be maybe 18 months, maybe even less until the next general election. With the kind of majority that you overthrew when you managed to win this seat, how can you convince the electorate to stay with you?”

RF: “I think when people vote for a Liberal Democrat MP, what they’re doing is they are recognising that they’re going to get a community champion. And so I’m trying my very best to be that champion of local people here in Devon in the short time that I’ve got before the next general election, to prove that I can represent them as best as possible in Parliament.”

LDRS: “That’s quite a tough task because the previous incumbent [Neil Parish] would say that he was too. He had this good relationship with farmers, with rural communities. So, in the very short time you have, that’s a lot of work to do. How confident are you that you can do that?”

RF: “I’ve paid tribute before to my predecessor, Neil Parish. who was indeed a very good constituency MP. I’ve learned from the way that he managed to cut about all of the towns and villages in our patch. He was very much present in village halls and at community centres, talking to local people and dealing with individuals’ casework and I’m really trying to emulate that as best I can and be that community champion.”

LDRS: “What have been your biggest challenges, do you think, so far and what do you think are likely to be your biggest challenges in the near future?”

RF: “I think one of the biggest challenges that I’ve seen when working with constituents over the last couple of months is this dreadful cost of living crisis that they are experiencing that we’re all seeing. I mean, it wouldn’t be the case that people’s mortgage rates were skyrocketing – or interest rates on loans were going up, so much. Or people’s pensions were put at risk, were it not for the decisions made by the Truss government over the last couple of months.

“And so I think trying to help shield our constituents and directing them and signposting them to some of the things that are on offer is something that I’ve been trying to do. But it’s difficult and it’s tough because of some catastrophic decisions that the government has made in recent months.”

LDRS: “It’s not realistic to assume that the Lib Dems are going to have an overall majority at the next election. So which political parties would you feel comfortable working with?”

RF: “Well, we’re simply fighting hard for every single Liberal Democrat MP that we can obtain at the next general election. We started this Parliament with 11, we’re now on 14 and we’ve proved with our momentum that we are a fighting force in British politics. We’re definitely on the way back up and in a stronghold that was once the west country.

“We we’ve got deep roots and we can regenerate some of the activism, the enthusiasm that we’ve seen before for the Liberal Democrats in our part of the world.”